National Puppy Day

IMG_20160309_195316Yesterday was National Puppy Day.

It was the best National Puppy Day ever for me, because I have a puppy!

I’ve had the puppy for about a month.

In January after we lost our beloved dog, Mercy, I wanted a puppy so much that I couldn’t think about anything else.

My husband said, “I think a puppy might overwhelm us. Maybe we should wait until summer after D [our son] graduates.”

I scoffed. How could one puppy overwhelm us?

All we have to do is work full-time, commute, get our son though the last months of high school and take care of our other 6 animals.

What would be overwhelming about a puppy, especially a tiny Chihuahua mixed breed puppy?

What’s fun about puppies

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Here’s what’s fun about puppies! They are small, untrained dogs! So they have all the needs of dogs with some bonus aspects.

Such as, you get to teach them housebreaking. I know why it’s called housebreaking. Because your back breaks cleaning up the house.

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Our new little guy is named Mufasa. He’s got an incredible story that I’ve told you about. We are crazy for him.

He seems to be crazy for us. And sometimes, just crazy!

We live in a single-wide trailer, 15 feet wide and 65 feet long. For those of you unfamiliar with today’s modern mobile home lifestyle, it means our home is skinny enough to go down the highway. It is long like a bowling alley.

Mufasa likes to go to the far end, turn around and then run as fast as dogly possible through the length of the house and bounce off the couch so he flies. Then he goes again.

As you can visualize, this is wildly entertaining. So entertaining, that it makes watching a movie difficult.

We’ve given up watching our Netflix and now we watch Mufasa.

Sometimes I like to quote my husband back to him in these moments, “Remember how you said, ‘I think a puppy might overwhelm us.’ And then I said, ‘I don’t think a puppy would overwhelm us.’”

More fun puppy facts

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Another amusing fun fact about puppies is that they teeth just like babies. Except somehow I don’t remember going through as many chew toys with my son!

I’m not surprised that Mufasa struggles to understand the difference between what is his for chewing and what is ours. Ours, for not chewing. If you had itchy teeth and you had to choose between a soft leather shoe and a knobby plastic fish that is “scent-infused with salmon,” what would you pick? So I don’t blame him one bit.

He did choose the one pair of shoes that didn’t belong to us. They belonged to my son’s new girlfriend. So we went shoe-shopping this weekend.

The incredible toy box of Mr. Mufasa

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Sticks: classic toy

We have a huge selection of dog toys. I even have a toy box I put them in. We have a soft rabbit, a crinkly baboon, a rainbow worm, a salmon-scented knobby plastic fish that looks so vaguely obscene from a distance I usually crop it out in photos (if you really want to see it, I included it in the photoshow below), two rubber Kongs, a grey mouse, a red rubber toy, something Himalayan made from yak’s milk and two knotted ropes.

Every evening, I put the toy box down for Mufasa. He puts his whole head in and shakes it around in the toys. He can’t believe his luck. We like to run a small family gambling ring on which he will choose first. I often win with my baboon bet. But knobby fish and Himalayan yak milk stick make a strong showing.

We went to the store yesterday to buy more kibble. We bought five-star food, because it’s Mufasa. My husband said, “Do you realize we spent more on the animals’ food than on our own groceries this week?”

We got home and I fixed dinner for all of us. I snuck some chicken from our people dinner into the dogs’ bowls, because it was National Puppy Day.

But if you’ve learned anything about me, you know I celebrate National Puppy Day every day!

Story of Mufasa: dog-eared but valuable

What is a dog’s life worth?
Nothing?
Hours of time and thousands of dollars?
Or something else?

The beginning

People are mean. Do you agree? I’ll tell you a story.

The Chihuahua puppy had no home. He was left to starve in the streets of Kansas City. He had a thin dull coat. He shook from the cold with winter coming. He shuffled and hurried and huddled along the concrete walls hungry and alone. His ribs grew sharp and gaunt. His eyes crusted over. He was afraid.

People are mean. They turn away from need. They leave the little ones alone in the cold to fade and go hungry. They walk past suffering.

The middle

People are kind. Do you agree? I’ll tell you a story.

A woman took pity and trapped the Chihuahua puppy. A rescue organization called Paws Crossed Inc. (on Facebook) reached out to her and offered to take care of him.

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Nettie, Mufasa’s foster mom, gets some puppy kisses 

Nettie, a volunteer with Paws Crossed took him in as her foster puppy. She fed him and he got his strength back. Within a week he transformed into a lively, tail-wagging puppy. She put a sweater on him when it was cold. His coat took on a shine. He ran with joy.

She named him Mufasa. She showed him love.

He came when she called him.

Then as he was getting stronger, they brought him for medical care.

Bad news. He had a fatal heart condition. He survived starvation, cold and the streets, but now he wouldn’t make it without surgery.

The surgery would cost thousands of dollars.

Paws Crossed started fundraising to save him. People donated for him to get the surgery. The vets at Mizzou fixed his heart so he could have a long life.

People are kind. They give lavishly and freely. They see suffering and offer healing. They open their homes. They teach the little ones what love is.

A second beginning

We were looking for a new second dog to live with Cookie, our Chihuahua mix. We lost our beloved Mercy in January.

We looked at a  beautiful, bossy female dog with blue eyes, a chocolate coat and a faraway look. She wasn’t the one. Another bossy female wouldn’t be a good match for our current bossy female.

We looked at a young hound (Vincent, so sweet! someone should adopt him). He wasn’t the one. Too big to be a good match for our Chihuahua mix.

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The photo I saw that made me apply. Courtesy of Paws Crossed Inc.

My friend, Kristen, sent me the link to Mufasa. Ears for days. A happy look. Friendly with other Chihuahuas.

He was the one! I applied for him. Then I wrote my husband an email: “What do you think of this dog? I applied for him.” Yes, that is how strongly I felt. I couldn’t wait!

I learned his story that I am telling you now.

We also learned he still has a problem. He’s so active running around that it’s hard to get a clear photo of him!

We picked him up on Saturday.

People are mean.

People are kind.

What is a dog’s life worth?

Is it worth nothing? Is a dog a piece of trash scuttling along the streets in the cold?

Is it worth thousands? Is a dog a symbol that brings out the best of our power to give, to care and to heal?

Is a dog’s life worth this and more?

Is a dog’s life worth a lifetime commitment? Yes, I say, yes.

How to break up with the person you used to be

If I met her today, I would raise my eyebrows. They’d be the same eyebrows: thick, rogue and ready to go off on their own. That would be the end of what we have in common.

I’m 80,000 words into my memoir, and I have about 10,000 words to go. I waded through more than 100 journals to get my story. Through listening to the echoes my earlier self left on the page, I got to know who I used to be.

I didn’t like her.

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Pastor Tim blesses Cookie. Photo by Dana Fritz.

My beloved half-Chihuahua Cookie struggles with social anxiety that she expresses through growling.

In a kind voice, her vet once explained to us that he was going to write “fear biter” on her chart so she would be treated with extra-gentleness. It didn’t mean she was a bad dog. It meant she needed special handling so no one got hurt, including Cookie.

We had a pet blessing at my church last weekend. I brought Cookie.

People make her nervous. Other dogs make her nervous. Loud voices make her nervous. Vultures make her very nervous. All these things were part of the event.

Between the nervous shaking and the growling, Cookie almost trembled her way out of her skin. She was blessed anyway.

Even the nervous, growly ones need blessing. Maybe they need it most of all.

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I had a hard time making sense of the early journals, in part because I went through a period of not dating them so one day ran into the next, but mostly because I wasn’t making sense. I recorded things people said to me next to my own ideas. Like untangling a knot in a fragile gold chain necklace, I pulled apart the snippet of a conversation in a café from a song lyric.

An exchange overheard on a bus went next to my plans for the future and a list of foods I got from the health food store called the Food Bin but affectionately called the Food Binge.

Pages rolled on without explanation or context. For hours, I worked to draw a single clear thought out of anguish mounded in dark scrawls, a glass bead in a neglected corner crowded with dust bunnies. The memoir grew.

Making Peace

Cookie at the pet blessing. Photo by Dana Fritz.
Cookie at the pet blessing. Photo by Dana Fritz.

I acknowledge the person I was 25 years ago. It’s true I ran around and bounced off the walls of the city. Nightclubs seemed too small, and each time I saw the ocean, I was tempted to dissolve in it.

I didn’t believe in goodness.

I was prickly and unpleasant while wanting to be praised, needy but unable to accept affection. I cussed and walked in the street, rejecting the sidewalk’s offer to keep me safe. I slept in my clothes due to apathy, drunkenness or lack of ability to choose a different outfit.

I saw no point in hoping.

I refused joy or couldn’t find it. I don’t know if I was looking.

Breaking up

As I extract a story from raw materials, I see my past in a new light. I realize I need to break up with the person I used to be.

Like a dysfunctional friendship you only hang onto for historical reasons, I’ve been carrying around my old self. I’m ready to let go.

I acknowledge my differences with who I was and end it with grace.

We need to say this to the past: “It’s over.”

And we need to pray: “God, bless who I was, who I am and who you want me to be.”

Because even the nervous, growly ones need blessing. Maybe they need it most of all.