The wolf in the bathroom

Hijinks.

That’s what the wolf in the bathroom is all about. Hijinks.

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. 

Next in the lineup of rescued dogs is Baby Gretchen. On the Island of Misfit Toys, she’d be the Dolly for Sue. Cute and cuddly but teeming with psychological issues.

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.

Wayne Gretzsky showed up at Camp Langley and Wendy says that “after various attempts over a few days of Lester trying to make our home not-so-hospitable, I told him that if he tried one more time and the dog didn’t go away, he was ours. Immediately, WG ignored Lester’s latest attempt and came right up to me.” Smart dog. WG has also endured a run-in with a gun and had “a 22 graze” down one side. Not being a gun person, I can only assume this means he was unlucky enough to be shot by a 22-gauge gun and lucky enough to have been grazed rather than punctured. For some unexplained but likely equally awful reason, WG was missing part of his tail, and one of the other dogs in residence bit him and broke his nose right away. That dog, Ally, is no longer with us but like all Camp Langley dogs, has a story. Says Wendy, “Ally had a tracheostomy and no voice and poor WG did not know how to read her signals…..but she is a whole ‘nother story).” Indeed. Wendy says they tried lots of names on this dog but King Moonracer “got naming privileges on the day that her dog Cooper died. She picked Gretzky but we called him Wayne Gretsky because he looked like he had been in a hockey fight.”
So the discarded coyote is in good company at Wendy’s house. Wendy & Lester’s friend Hanks was involved in the culling of some of the worst taxidermy work at the Wildlife & Fisheries office. When he saw the impressive choppers on that coyote, according to Wendy, Hanks said to himself, “Lester needs that. It looks like a werewolf with dentures.”
Because of his impressive choppers, the coyote was crowned “Choppa” and has been instilling fear and inciting pants-wetting every chance he gets.
Here’s how Choppa’s attempt to scare me went down: I showed up at Wendy’s house for what I thought was a cook-out — burgers for the carnivores, portabellas for me, squash fresh from Papa’s garden for everyone, and Wendy’s special meringue cake.

newsflash: yum!

It seemed like a normal cook-out, with kids swimming in the pond and adults chatting and sipping. Instead, it was a wily plot to lull me into a sense of security and well-being then scare the pee-waddle outta me. This is how people get their jollies in northern Louisiana. Food was consumed, liquor was drunk, and a good time was had by all. Unbeknownst to me, everyone around the patio table was waiting with bated breath for me to excuse myself and go to the loo. For once in my life, my bladder outpaced my drinking — that never happens! So it was a long wait for the tricksters that night.
When nature finally did call and I moseyed to the powder bath, I didn’t even notice that the entire household — kids included — was following me to the bathroom. I flipped on the light and saw this:

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.

Meanwhile, I need to get this photo blown up and framed as a memento of one wild & crazy night. 

I’m gonna get one for Amy, too. 


Piggie portraits!


























THE END!


Pig Parade

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 little piggie had a frowny face. 

This little piggie was teeny-tiny. I love the little pink bow on her little piggie head.

I think her eyes were sequins. 

The winking pig caught my attention. Such a jaunty fellow.

This piggie wins the prize for best tail. A mass of pink curling ribbon festooned his behind. So cute.

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.

These girls were quite proud of their piggie head-dresses and insisted I take a picture of them just before the parade began.

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.

I was a bit surprised at how glittery and blinged-out this boy’s pig was, but then who am I to judge the pig artists at work? 

This little girl was so proud of her pig she could barely sit still. I had a hard time getting a good picture of her pig because she was so wiggly in anticipation of the parade.

Yet another proud pig owner. This little piggie was kinda red, because as his creator, Capt. Genius, explained, he doesn’t really like pink. Duly noted.

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.

At the end of the parade route, in the cafeteria, each pig owner lovingly placed his or her pig on a table according to class, then posed for photos on a hay bale.

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.


Model prep

The American Cancer Society’s Couture for the Cause is fast approaching. As in tomorrow. I’m experiencing equal parts excitement and terror about modeling in the fashion show. Since this is my second time to model in the Couture, the excitement should be outweighing the terror, but alas it is not. Ask me tomorrow which feeling prevails. Hopefully it will be excitement. Sadly, all the fun and triumph surrounding this event are overshadowed by the unexpected death of our sweet dog Harry. It has been a long, hard day at our house, following a sleepless, sad night. I can only hope tomorrow is better. I’ll have a couple of my besties modeling with me this year, so it will be a great comfort to have them backstage and on the catwalk with me.

Getting ready for the show is pretty easy, assuming there are no big bumps in the road like the one we’re experiencing as we grieve for our dog. There’s the model survey to fill out (height, weight, hair & eye color, favorite designers, personal style, etc) and a full-length photo to submit. Then show up for a fitting of the outfits I’ll be wearing; show up for rehearsal with finger- and toenails painted red; and show up a few hours early for the event to have my face painted and my hair teased and tousled by a team of professionals. Oh, and procure the items on my “bring list,” which this year include a pair of brown platform sandals, a pair of black peep-toe platform heels as high as I can manage, and a strapless bra. Last year, I modeled between mastectomy and reconstruction, so there was no need whatsoever to bring a bra, strapless or otherwise.

In fact, last year I modeled having been sprung from the hospital just a few weeks before the big event. That nasty post-mastectomy infection damn near kept me from being able to participate in the most terrifying and most amazing experience I’ve ever had. This year, I’ll skip the hospital part and head straight for the show.

Last year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into but was coaxed and cajoled by some people I really love (that means you, Yvonne) and some people I’d never met but who assured me I’d be perfect, just perfect. All of the other models were cancer survivors, save a dozen or so real-life models to really showcase the outfits and lend an air of professional gravitas to the event. There were several other breast cancer survivors among the non-professional models, and they happened to be a lot farther along in the cancer “journey” than this fledgling model was. Every single one of them was done with reconstruction and didn’t bat an eye before showing me their results. Only at an ACS event would it seem perfectly normal to be closely examining a complete stranger’s breasts, but that’s how cancerchicks roll. 

Needless to say, last year I was a teensy bit unsure about taking the stage and strutting my stuff on the catwalk among hordes of people who’d paid a lot of money to get into this gig. My body was a train wreck, my mind was somewhere between blown and trying to follow along, and my emotions were all over the place. I’d managed pretty well at that point to wrap my head around the cancer diagnosis, but dealing with the infection that threatened to be an unsolved medical mystery — not so much. 

Hooray for being in a muuuuuuuuch better place this time around.

And hooray for actually liking the outfits I’m going to model on Saturday, and for hopefully not having a mink headwrap this time around.

While there is a lot of prep work that goes into pulling off a successful Couture show, thankfully most of it is done by others. I’m pretty sure there’s not another cause I’d be willing to model for, even though it gives me an excuse to buy new shoes. All this fashion show prep reminded me of a story Trevor shared with me a while back, about what the Victoria’s Secret models go through before their big fashion shows. Seems the Telegraph followed VS model Adriana Lima leading up to her fashion show. Lima is a bit more serious about prepping for her show than I am for mine:

She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – ‘no solids.’ The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and ‘just drink normally.’ Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely. “No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that,” Lima says.

Say what??

I can assure you that I will most certainly not stop drinking entirely before my show. If anything, I’ll probably be drinking even more than usual. I will most definitely raise a glass and send up a toast to my sweet dog who is no longer waiting to greet me after my big event.


A dog named Harry

There are some infamous phone calls you never want to receive. Like the one from the principal of your kid’s school, announcing all manner of bad behavior. Like the one from your doctor’s office to say don’t bother looking for a letter in the mail to say everything is fine after a test/scan/biopsy, because it’s not fine. Like the one from your best friend at bedtime on a Thursday night saying your dog, who he’s watching, seems to be dying on the living room rug.

Of those three infamous phone calls, the first example is the only one I’ve not received. On April 26, 2010, I got the call from the doctor’s office saying we need to see you ASAP because the breast biopsy results don’t look so good. And tonight, I got the call from Ed to say that Harry, sweet-crazy-loyal-kookoo-devoted-amped up Harry, was dying. 

Ed was kind enough to let Harry stay at his house for a week while our little piggie convalesced after being spayed. The old boy had been slowing down of late, for sure, but I certainly didn’t think he was that close to death, and by the time he made it apparent, both of my kids were in bed sleeping and Trevor is out of the country, so rushing over to Ed’s to be by Harry’s side as he breathed his last breath wasn’t an option.

I’m going to try really hard to not feel guilty about that.

And I’m going to try really hard to not feel eternally indebted to Ed for comforting sweet, old Harry in his last few minutes of life while giving me the play-by-play on the phone.

Harry was a sweetie. Crazy, but sweet. I wrote about his habit of snatching food here and about the trials & tribulations of his nervous stomach here. I’m sure that many thoughts and memories of Harry will come as the shock and sadness become fully realized in my brain. I’ll be calling upon the gods of parental wisdom as I break the news to my kids, who haven’t seen their big dog in a week and who likely hadn’t noticed how much he was slowing down, how rapidly he was aging. 

Leave it to crazy old Harry to die in a manner that is both the least troublesome to me yet the most complicated: at someone else’s house, out of my sight so the visuals don’t becoming permanent, searing bad memories; yet at a time of night that leaves me utterly clueless as to what to do.

I was already mentally rearranging my day tomorrow, so that I could go pick him up after getting the kids off to school and take him to the vet. Since his back legs went out just before he died, I assumed I’d have to carry him — all 60 pounds of him — into the vet so that he could be put down. Been there, done that, and while it’s certainly not pleasant, I personally feel a responsibility to my animals to be there, in the room and stroking their soft fur, as the vet administers first the sedative that calms them then the lethal dose that stops their old, sweet, full heart. Not saying that’s the right thing for everyone who finds themselves in that situation, but that it’s right for me.

I fully expected that that’s what I’d be doing tomorrow — standing next to Harry, who joined our family shortly after the crushing loss of my first and best dog Maddy, as our longtime vet reassured me that it was time and that putting him down was the right thing to do, before the suffering became too great and the indignities of a proud alpha dog became apparent to the rest of the pack. I expected to hold his white-with-age face in my hands and look into his brown eyes, speaking softly to reassure him that he’s ok, that he’s a good boy, that he’s loved. 

Instead, I will try not to wonder if he would have lived a little longer had he been at home, in his own environment. I will try not to regret that he spent the last few days of his life in his home-away-from-home instead of in his real home, surrounded by the two little kids who love him with all their hearts. I will try to figure out how to act normal for those two little kids in the morning, knowing that as soon as I see them off to school I will have to start thinking about what to tell them when they get home. I will try to reassure myself that it’s cruel and disruptive to tell them their dog died then send them off to school, that waiting until they’re home and at the start of a weekend is best.

And I will remember the day we picked him out at the Houston Humane Society.

Because of our love of the Harry the Dirty Dog series of books, Macy — age 4 — wanted a dog named Harry. How delighted we were to find a dog named Harry who greeted us with a wagging tail, a sweet face, and eyes that seemed to ask if we wanted to play.

Goodbye, Harry boy. You’re ok. You’re a good boy. You are loved.


Shuffling the Pack

Another story from our fine local newspaper. Yes, it’s about cancer, and yes, it’s sad. Consider yourself forewarned.

Last month, there was a wonderful story called “Shuffling the Pack” about a woman, Tina Borja, and her dog Buck. Two years ago, Tina found a lump in her breast and became one of the the “one in eight” women in the United States to be diagnosed with the dreaded disease. She endured the all-too-familiar treatment of lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemo, and radiation to combat her cancer. During the misery that is cancer treatment, as Tina grew weaker, Buck took over as the pack’s alpha. According to Tina, it was no longer her job to take care of him; he decided it was his job to take care of her.

Reminds me of my sweet Maddy, the All Time Ever Best Dog in the History of the World. She and my sweet mama got sick about the same time, and both were going downhill fast: mom’s cancer was eating her alive, and  Maddy’s advanced age (98 in dog years) resulted in some nasty degenerative problems that no pet owner should have to witness. Long story short, my mom knew she wasn’t going to win her cancer battle and was heartbroken about the idea of me losing her and my beloved dog at the same time. The vet gave Maddy a few weeks to live, while Mom was given a few months. Darned if that dog didn’t defy the odds and live nearly 6 months past her predicted expiration date. She held on for several months after Mom died, then quietly let me know it was her time, too.

But back to Buck. And Tina.

After enduring treatment, Tina was pronounced cured of breast cancer. Not “in remission,” Tina says, but “cured.” Big difference. And one that this cancer survivor won’t feel comfortable assuming, ever. As I’ve written about here and here, “cured” isn’t something I consider. To me, “cured” connotes a permanent state, while recurrence is always on the horizon.

Tina looked at it differently, and didn’t think about recurrence. After being pronounced “cured,” she felt safe. She probably figured she’d endured so much hardship that she deserved to have a big payoff, i.e., a long, healthy life. Instead, she was hit with what every cancer patient dreads: recurrence. One day, out of the blue, she started  having trouble with fine-motor skills. Everyday stuff like typing and signing her name became iffy. After the all-too-familiar scans we cancer patients endure, Tina learned she had four tumors in her brain. Her breast cancer was not cured but in fact had spread.

She’s now enduring radiation on her brain, a last-ditch treatment that will most likely buy her some time, but it comes at a great cost. “With this cancer, you never know,” she says. “Will the cortex go first? Will I lose my speech? Or my motor control? Or my inhibitions? I could be running in the streets naked.”
Before any of that happens, Tina wants to make sure Buck has a new home.
So…it’s not enough for this woman to be dying of metastatic breast cancer, she also has to make plans for her dog to go to a new home? That is wrong. Just wrong.
I give Tina a lot of credit. Nowhere in the two articles I read about her is there a hint of “poor me” or “why me?” but instead, she’s focused on taking care of business. According to last week’s article, Tina “believes the right home is out there, that somewhere, someone is willing to give him the place in the world he deserves. A place with room to run, and someone to make him feel secure.”
Isn’t that what we all want, really? When we boil our life’s pursuits down to their essential elements, don’t we all want someone to give us the place in the world we deserve? A place with room to run, and someone to make us feel secure?
While my heart is breaking for Tina and my sense of righteous indignation is roiling over her situation — and that of millions of other cancer victims out there — I can’t help but be really moved by the love she has for her dog. I’m a dog lover and a cancer victim myself, so I’m ripe for the picking here, but even the most hard-hearted among us surely must be a teensy bit verklempt here.
For everyone concerned — animal lovers and “I’m fine without a furry creature in my life” alike — good news. Well, if you can consider anything good about Tina’s situation. After the initial article ran in the paper, more than 150 people emailed the columnist, Lisa Gray, and 100 of them expresed interest in adopting Buck.
Tina read every single email. I knew she was good people. She was reportedly overwhelmed, in a good way, and she replied to everyone who’d inquired about making Buck a part of their family. “Dear all, Your collective response evokes more adjectives than I can name: heartwarming, tender, encouraging, overwhelming.”
One email stood out among the horde, and curiously, it wasn’t even written by the person who might end up with the dog. Brett Felker recently had to put his dog down, and his stepmom, Kristy, emailed Tina. Brett’s dog, Boogie, was a blue-heeler mix, just like Buck. Boogie was a cattle dog on the Felker family ranch in Odessa, and Boogie lived a long, happy life with Brett on the ranch. At age 16, however, Boogie’s ranching days were over. The day that Kristy read about Tina’s plight was Brett’s first day back on the ranch without Boogie. Kristy took action, writing to Tina, “Perhaps we can see if Brett is ready for Buck. I think they both might need one another.”
This was a bold move by Kristy, and one that Brett could have interpreted as meddling. I know this, because I’ve been there. My beloved Maddy girl has been gone from this earth for 6 years, but I can still recall like it was yesterday how much it hurt to say good-bye, and how raw it felt to even consider getting another dog after my heart had been ripped out by her absence in my life. I remember saying I will NEVER get another dog, because the pain was too deep, the loss was too great. But in a matter of days, I knew that I would NEVER live my life without a dog as a part of it. I missed that sweet face in the window as my car pulled into the driveway. I missed that full-body wiggle when I walked through the door. I missed that comforting thump of the tail every time I entered the room. I missed the solid warmth and soothing presence of a furry body next to me as I reposed.
Brett wasn’t there yet when Kristy sent him the story of Buck. It was too soon, and he wasn’t ready. But Kristy soldiered on anyway, like a good bossypants, and emailed Tina. Then she took the bossiness one step further–which I love, by the way–and forwarded the emails between Tina and herself to Brett. Brett decided he was interested in Buck, because the blue-heeler side of Tina’s dog reminded him of his own beloved Boogie, but he wasn’t sure he was ready.
Tina replied in admirable dog-mama fashion, saying no pressure, but think about it because he seemed like a good match for Buck. I love that Tina wasn’t concerned with securing a home as much as she was with making a good match. That’s a good dog-mama for ya.
Tina and Brett are planning to meet soon, and Tina is sure it will be a good match between Brett and Buck. So sure that she’s already planning to take a picture of Brett leading Buck away. She says “it’ll be a brand new pack, each starting over, but each knowing what it means to be loved.” I sure hope Buck keeps this photo in his heart, forever:

Rush-hour circus

A girl walks into a bar with a pig….

My latest adventure had all the makings of a great joke. Except it was reality.

Sheesh.

Our little piggy needed to be spayed. Not because we worry about roving male pigs bursting in on her unannounced and leaving a litter of bastard piglets, but because female piggies can come into heat at 12 weeks of age (yes, you read that right — 12 weeks old; talk about babies having babies) and because they can come into heat every 3 weeks. While there was no need for piggie hygiene products, being in heat was bothersome nonetheless; there was the uncharacteristic bitchiness and the restlessness and the excessive friendliness on her part.

Our quest for a piggie vet was long and complicated. You’d think that living in the 4th largest city would make it easier to find a pig vet, but you would be wrong. After a tiresome, stressful, mostly unfruitful search, we hit pay-dirt, and scheduled our piggie’s hysterectomy. Silly me, I thought the worst part of this process would be surviving the period during which Piper was NPO–that girl likes her chow. I was rather nervous about making the 44-mile drive alone with a ravenous pig on her way to a painful and permanent sterility.

So focused was I on getting Piper to the vet on an empty stomach that I didn’t even think about getting her home. That was a whole ‘nother ordeal. Getting her to the vet was surprisingly easy. She’s like a tiny baby — wait, she is a baby — who falls asleep as soon as she gets in the car. So even though her tummy was rumbling, she snoozed all the way across town to the vet.

The vet techs swarmed around her and nearly came to blows over who got to hold her first, so I left her in good hands and with minimal trepidation. Even though I knew she was going to have to endure an unpleasant procedure, she was going to get plenty of love, so it was ok.

The pig-crazed receptionist called after a few hours to say the surgery was over, the piggie was awake, and all was well. She would be ready to go home by 5:00. I’m not sure how it is where you live, but 5:00 in Houston can be scary and treacherous.

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It’s a big ol’ city, y’all. Stretching some 60 miles across, my fine city has some serious freeways, loops, toll roads, and beltways, but every one of them is jam-packed at rush hour. My 44-mile one-way trip from my humble abode to the piggie vet was a breeze this morning, but making that same trip at rush hour was a bear. A big, hungry bear with a slobbery mouth and razor-sharp teeth.

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Much of the trip to pick her up was spent putzing along at speeds of less than 30 mph alternating with coming to a complete standstill. Any time an interchange loomed, the creeping and crawling slowed even more. I started to wonder why so slow? Don’t most of these drivers know where they’re going? Don’t they drive this route most every weekday? Don’t they know which lane to be in before they face the concrete jungle of freeway fly-overs?

Apparently not.

All right, fine, it’s rush hour, and I’m resolved to it. I’ve got some good tunes and a full tank of gas, and plenty of cool AC to combat the 86-degree spring day. I’m not in rush-hour traffic often, so a little bit of patience was easy to muster. After an hour and 20 minutes, I arrived at the vet’s office ready to collect my pig and get on my merry way.

After the money changed hands, I took my pig and bid the vet techs good day. I bundled Piggie into a blanket and placed her quite gingerly into the passenger seat. I thought I was a mere hour’s drive away from a cold beer and the beginning of the weekend, but instead it was a slow descent into hell.

Piggie decided that she needed to ride in my lap, as she is wont to do. Fine, but let me get the blanket too, so she’s comfy for the long ride home. Doh! I didn’t realize that the blanket gave her a cushy 12 inches or so to project from my lap. My arms struggled to get around her and grip the steering wheel. I looked like a T-Rex trying to steer my little car with Piggie and her cushy bed in my lap.

If my steering radius was bad, my visibility was worse. With the porcine dumpling in my lap, I struggled to turn my head and shoulders enough to see the other 900,000 cars on the road, all of which seemed to be whizzing by me and changing lanes abruptly. Between little piggie groans and snores, I navigated the traffic on my stumpy arms, cursing the slowdowns and flying through the open stretches in a balls-out effort to get home ASAP.

At one point, about halfway home, Piper started acting like she needed to use the facilities. With no facilities in sight, I began to sweat. If she relieved herself in the car, it would be a really long ride home. No sooner did I start worrying about her needing to go, then I began to worry about needing to go myself. The last thing I wanted to do was try to swivel my head around my porky parcel to exit the beltway and find a restroom. And then what? Take her with me? I couldn’t very well leave her in the car, but nor could I imagine hauling her into the gas station to request the ladies’ room key. Better to just hold it and hustle home.

While the trip home seemed endless, it did finally end, and both Piper and I made it without incident. In her groggy, anesthesia-riddled state, she was actually in better shape than I. A bit rattled and rather cramped from driving with the use of just 6 inches of arms, I was very happy to be home in one piece. Just a day in the life, people.