Meet Max

IMG_0652I can’t help myself.  Today is the day I usually post a quote that inspires me.  But we’ve a new member of the family and just can’t wait to introduce him to you.  If you haven’t read this blog before you need to know that I love dogs. There are many posts to check out here if you do, too.

Just over a week ago we lost our dog, Brody, to pneumonia.  My family, the people who took such good care of him at day care every Thursday, and Brody’s veterinarian team were all devastated.  He had lived with us for only six weeks and I could not understand how I would be able to go on without filling the enormous hole he left in my heart.

My very kind and sensitive dog trainer friend, Karen, sent me a picture of a picture of Max and so began the task of my beginning to come to terms with what I now understand to be part of my job description in this life.  I was an abused child. I find it comforting and necessary to take in small abused and abandoned dogs. That does not mean that I stop grieving for all of those gentle souls who have shared their time with me.  There will always be cracks and crevices in my heart through which sorrow and tears will seep when I think of them.

This new little guy in named Max and he came to live with us this past Sunday.  He weighs in at about thirteen pounds and is mostly, if not all, a Shih Tzu. He lived with a single mom and her two kids.  One day she decided she’d had enough and packed up the kids and the dog and dropped them off at her mother’s house.  He was turned into a shelter because the kid’s grandmother couldn’t take care of the children and the dog, too.

Max hadn’t been clipped for a good long time and was covered with mats and infested with fleas.  The caring folks at the Louisa Humane Society, took him from the shelter. They had him shaved down to his skin and put him in a foster home until he could be adopted out.  His foster parents took great care of him and were kind and generous to be able to give him up.  I would not have been able to.

IMG_0632He is a sweetheart of a dog. Gentle, quiet, and he loves to cuddle more than anything else.  He and Sam are beginning to make friends and Lily, who tried to avoid him altogether, has finally given in.  Just this morning I found her rubbing up against Max, the way cats do to mark their belongings and territory.

Yesterday, Max passed his test at doggie day care with flying colors.  I took him in for a brief visit where he was introduced to a number of other dogs to make sure he won’t cause trouble in the big day care pack.  Tomorrow will find him there, mostly following big brother, Sam, around and figuring out the ins and outs of day care.

He’s been sleeping at night in a crate since he’s been here, but at 5:30 this morning he woke me, asking to be let outside.  When he returned instead of going back into the crate, he jumped up on the bed and curled up next to me under the covers.  Uh-0h!  I wonder where he’ll want to sleep tonight.  Although I prefer that he sleep in the crate, (Sleeping with dogs in the summer time can get overly warm.) he just might get the best of me.IMG_0630

Missing Brody

Brody and big brother, Sam.

Brody and big brother, Sam.

A week ago this past Friday, Brody died of pneumonia. He apparently had it for the entire six weeks that he blessed this household with his big heart and huge personality.

He lived every moment of his life with gusto.  When he was afraid, he turned snarly. He thought he was the biggest dog in the world and if he didn’t like you, he tried to make you as afraid of him, as he was of you.

When he slept, he slept deeply.  He loved lying on his back in my lap and have his tummy rubbed.  His head would drop toward the floor, his eyes would roll back into his head, and he’d snore a little.

He ate like it was going out of style, afraid that someone might steal his treasure, but there was no food aggression.  He never tried to get Sam’s food away from him and never seemed to be jealous that Sam was getting more attention than he was.

He played the way he did everything else, emptying a large basket filled with toys in minutes, seeking out the noisiest squeakers he could find.  He’d roll on his back, flipping his chosen plaything up in the air, catching it in his mouth and between his paws.  The living room floor was always a maze of stuff that Brody brought out to play, and if I picked it all up and put it back in the basket, he’d immediately begin emptying the basket over again.

He was always happy to see me, running at full speed through the door and into my lap just the night before he died, after Bill had picked him up from “Doggy Daycare.”

He loved with every cell of his body, consuming those he loved with his deep, dark eyes and his smile. Mornings, I’d lean out of bed, open his crate, and he’d jump up on the bed, waking me with his kisses. He loved Miss Lily, the cat, with as much love as he had for Bill and I, and simply adored his big brother, Sam.

Except for some coughing and sneezing that became nonstop the night before he died, he never showed signs of being sick.  He ate well, played well, lived well.  He had been examined by at least three veterinarians and they never picked up that his lungs were filled with fluid. His presence and his passing have served to remind me of how all of us must live … with gusto … with love … taking nothing for granted.

We all miss you, Sweet Brody, but we know you’re up in heaven somewhere, amongst the other angels, Molly, Charlie, Peppermint, Hannah, and Cleo, who blessed our lives before you. We’re taking your cue to live well and will soon be welcoming another little doggy soul into the place you kept warm for him.


Brody, taking a nap.

Brody 2008 – 2013

I am bereft.  I cannot possibly write about it now.  Maybe later.  Just know he was a very small dog with a huge personality and lived his life living with joy until the very end.  He taught me many lessons while he was with me.

Brody RIP March 15, 2013

Brody RIP
March 15, 2013

Dogs In My Toolbox

Top Dog Sam.  He's been with us since 2003.

Top Dog Sam. He’s been with us since 2003.

There is a toolbox in my heart.  It’s filled with all sorts of things that help me navigate through my days and keep my life on the straight and narrow. When I begin to feel a bit off, anxious, or fearful, I can reach in and pull out something that will bring relief, slow me down, and get me back on track.

My tools include things like taking time to sit and meditate, choosing to take a hike, or a quick walk around the block. My weekly Yoga and Pilates sessions also figure in as tools as well as my cross-trainer that I can jump on anytime and work off a bit of anger or frustration. My weekly phone chats with dear friend, Sharon, who lives too far away to have tea with in person, brings me laughter and helpful listening when they’re most needed.

There are lots of books in my box as well, like those written by Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron, that can straighten out my thinking when I’m in a quandary and need a bit of inspiration. Poets like Mary Oliver, Mark Nepo, and David Whyte are also on the shelf. A goodly number of memoirs are stacked inside. I love them because they help me to see how others navigate troubled waters. Some of my favorites includethose by Cheryl Strayed and Mary Karr.

But some of the best tools I’ve ever had were dogs and cats. A year and a half ago Molly left us to join my other deceased companions somewhere over the rainbow. She was the love of Sam’s and my life. She left a hole in our hearts that nothing could fill.

Very Special  Molly

Very Special Molly

Over time, Sam and Bill seemed to become one with each other but I was feeling a bit left out. To try to even things out we adopted Terry, last summer. He didn’t last very long because he beat up on Sam, as well as on much of the furniture. Thankfully he is now with another family with two little boys to keep him busy and no other dogs to be jealous of.  But Bill was heartbroken when we had to give him up and didn’t want to try another dog in fear that again, it too might not work out. We both get very attached in very little time. He told me he might be open to trying again after the holidays. I agreed, while that hole in my heart just stayed put.

In the meantime, I followed Animal Connections on Facebook. They are the folks who had rescued Molly from a terrible living situation. Over the last six months I’ve watched one sweet, little dog after another go off to their forever homes. One little guy in particular caught my attention.  He and his brother were given up by their family, who for one reason or another could no longer care for them. I knew that I couldn’t take in two dogs and figured I’d never get to meet the one that looked a bit like Molly.

Brody, four years old, and as sweet as can be.  Ear-do #1.

Brody, four years old, and as sweet as can be. Ear-do #1.

I followed Brody and his brother, Morgan, as they were sent off to a foster home, getting in a car accident on the way.  Though Brody wasn’t hurt, he was scared and ran off into the woods and couldn’t be found. Crazy me didn’t sleep well that night, worrying about a little dog I’d never met.  After he was found the next morning, I was relieved and ecstatic that he was back with his brother.

The holidays came and went and when I asked Bill if he was ready to try another dog out, he said no.  Sam seemed to be happy on his own and was more Bill’s companion than mine. They were both happy and out of respect for them, I gave up expecting that I’d fill that empty corner in my heart.

Then just a week ago, I got a message a friend who works with Animal Connections.  It seems Brody and his brother had to be separated because suddenly Morgan was beating up on his smaller sibling. She said that Brody might be a great fit for our family and asked if she could bring him over to meet us.  I hesitated before showing the email to Bill, but ended up pleading my case and he gave in.

Brody, Ear-do #2.

Brody, Ear-do #2.

Brody has been with us now for a week. I adore him and the hole in my heart is overflowing with love and a little fellow who jumps up on the bed in the morning when the alarm goes off, and kisses me awake.  Sam at nine years and possibly feeling a bit arthritic is not as playful as he once was, but seems to enjoy having Brody for company.  And of course, Bill is as much in love with this little guy as I am.

How about you?  What’s in your toolbox?


Sam the Man, also known as Sampson, Sambo, Little Sam and one big hearted dog.

Sam has lost three of his best friends this past year.  Last November it was Molly, the little Maltese/Terrier mix with whom he fell head over heels in love with the first time he met her.  They were very close and when she died, he grieved along with the rest of us.  After a month or so it seemed as though he was okay with her being gone.  He enjoyed being the only dog in the house, finding it easy to break the rules we had set up for them when there were two dogs instead of just one.

We always allowed them up on the bed for afternoon naps, but at night they both slept on their own cushy beds on the floor next to us. They seemed to understand the difference between afternoon and night and rarely jumped up on the bed during the wee hours unless there was a thunderstorm or one of them had to pee.  After Molly died, Sam gradually made his way up onto the ottoman at the foot of our bed.  He’d get comfortable and when he was sure we were asleep and the sound of snoring filled the air, he’d quietly move up onto the bed.  If he dared, he’s snuggle up against a human leg. Not liking hot legs, we’d gently move him back to the ottoman, until one night we said, “The poor boy is lonely,” and left it at that.  By then, he knew he should sleep in the middle of the bed, not up against his human’s bodies.

Of late he’s been looking sad.  He wasn’t eating much and wasn’t bringing us his favorite toys for us to play with.  Just two weeks ago, the day after his best kitty friend, Peppermint died, Bill and I left for a week visiting our grandkids. Though Sam was here at home with his beloved, Bobbie, who always comes in to stay with him while we’re away, he got even more depressed. When we got home he wasn’t eating.  His tail, usually a happy wig-wag machine and a sign of how he is feeling, didn’t wag much. I was very concerned and knew he was deep in mourning for his three family members, Molly, Cleo the cat who died in June and now Peppermint.

I knew what the best medicine would be and sent a message out into the Universe to see what we could do about it.  The following day, when I went to the SPCA to pick up Pepper’s ashes, I took a walk past the dogs up for adoption.  They were mostly big hounds and pit bulls, not matches for Sam.

Next, I went to the pet supply store hoping to find a new exciting dog food that might tempt him into eating again.  I walked through the aisles and turning a corner entered into a larger open space. There right in front of me was the cutest little terrier mix I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He came over to me, greeting me as if we were long-lost friends.  Terry, was one of the dogs at an adoption event the store was hosting for Animal Connections, a local dog rescue group, that specializes in small dogs.  It was through them that we found Molly, ten or so years ago.  I knew this was the little angel dog that would be powerful medicine for Sam.  And if Sam and Molly had been able to have puppies together, this little man was what they would have looked like.

Terry. Sometimes I think of him as Terrence

I rushed home and brought Bill and Sam back to the store to meet  one year old, Terry.  When they met, Sam’s tail was waving a mile a minute and we took them both outside for a little pee party in the grass.  I was happy, Terry was happy, and Sam was happy. But Bill was reluctant.  We’d promised each other we that we wouldn’t fill the house back up with animals again and thought Sam would be fine after a while.  He’s also been wanting to travel more and knows I don’t like to be away  from my animal companions for very long.  He thought that the more animals there are in the house, the more reluctant I would be to leave them.  Not so.  When it comes to my furry friends, whether it’s one or ten, they are my special companions and I don’t like to be away from them for very long.  I’d find my life empty without them.

Lily and Terry

At the end of our meeting, we set up a day for Terry to come to our house for an overnight.  That would give him and Sam plenty of time to get to know each other. On Thursday morning when Terry’s foster mom, Lynette, brought him over, Sam was very excited.  Within two hours, beside myself with joy, I called Lynette to tell her that Terry would be staying with us forever.  We’ll sign the final adoption papers today. But in heart and soul, no papers are necessary. He’s ours and we’re his already.

Sam is eating again and playing for the first time in many months with a new companion who he wanted and needed. Terry has a new forever home and seems to be as delighted with us as we are with him.  He loves to play and this morning finally coaxed Lily, our remaining cat, to play with him.  The floors are a jumble of toys that haven’t been used in a long time and when Sam gets tired and needs a nap, Terry carries on by himself, chasing a tennis ball he tosses around for himself. Or sometimes he crashes next to Sam. Bill adores Terry as much as Sam and I do. He whispered to me that if I wanted him to, he’d put it in writing that I was right all along.  Companionship, of all kinds, is big, powerful medicine.

The Boys