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Facing a brand-new year, head-on

The holiday leftovers have all been eaten, the cards taken down, and I think there’s maybe half a glass of eggnog left in the fridge. The cats have scattered their Christmas toys under various large pieces of furniture and Gwen’s are already quite well-chewed. Winter Solstice brought us the promise of the days beginning to lengthen again, with Christmas came time spent with reconnecting with friends and family (some in person, others maybe only by phone or online) and then 2011 wound itself down to an end.  And now here we are, in a brand new year again.

Last night we got a half inch of snow followed by a day of bitter cold, but I can’t complain as we’d been hammered with three heavy snows by this time last year and it’s been very mild. Perhaps winter will go easy on us this year. On New Year’s Day we had breakfast of homemade breakfast ‘sausage’ Joy made and eggnog pancakes I contributed, then relaxed for a few hours reading in front of the fire with all seven critters sprawled out around us. Then we went hiking with Gwen in the DuPont State Forest – it was brilliantly sunny and very warm for this time of year, a beautiful day for a hike. After we returned, we had another nice home cooked meal and a movie from Netflix. It was a relaxing and restorative holiday weekend and I hope it sets a good precedent for 2012.

Last year saw a lot of change and turmoil in the world around us, and it seems likely that pattern will continue… especially when you add in this being an election year here in the US (and the coming onslaught of nonsense that is going to bring), the ongoing recession, and all the Mayan calendar silliness. If there is actually some sort of ‘change of consciousness’ happening, maybe it’s that people are beginning to wake up on a mass scale, and really see what is going on around them. It needs to happen, the world is facing so many challenges and I’m hoping that all the protests and unrest are the first stage of people learning to work together and solve some of these problems.

On a more personal level, in 2011 we had a few changes around here. We added an unexpected family member… everyone has been too tactful to point out the ‘foster fail’, but guess we need to come clean, especially since our foster kitten, Ishi, is over a year old now! Equally unexpectedly, but with much regret, we also lost one this year. What happened with Paddy is still a sore spot… we never saw that coming and it still hurts.

Cricket made it through another year, for which we are grateful, though both she and Olive have gotten so old and frail… I’m not sure either of them has another Christmas in them, all we can do is make them as comfortable and happy as we can, and enjoy the time we have left with them. Time seems to flow faster with each passing year… I look at Simon, who is ten, and wonder where that black kitten disappeared to? Winter is six now and even Calvin is already all grown up, though still prone to flying through the air like superman. Gwen and Ishi, at 15 months, are still the ‘babies’ of the family, but not really babies anymore. I look in the mirror and see the inevitable passage of time etched in lines on my face , and glistening in the ‘few white hairs’ that are becoming a white streak…and as I stare at my reflection, I ask myself the important question, “is there ‘enough’ grey mixed in with the dark brown yet?” You know, so that I can dye my hair some outlandish shade of purple and actually be able to see the purple? Almost, I think. Maybe next year. 🙂

I thought that the above picture of Ishi that I’d been playing with in Photoshop, seeming to look out the window pensively (actually she was watching our new neighbor working in his garage) was a good image to start the year with. From this angle, you can’t even see that she singed off half her eyebrows last night sniffing a candle. Come to think of it, maybe that’s an even better metaphor to live by for 2012 – having the initiative to explore new experiences in the coming year, face them head on.

Even if you lose a few eyebrows in the process.


**Update 05-17-2011**

A week after I posted this, Paddy developed a serious aggression issue. We felt that it was not a manageable situation for us, and it would be irresponsible to pass a problem like this on to someone else.  Much as it broke our hearts, we made the gutwrenching decision to have Paddy put down. I don’t want to discuss the details or even talk about it, not now… it was a horrible thing to have to face,  a hard decision to live with even though we felt it was the right one. I actually took down the entire web site for a while, and then was going to purge it and start over, but decided in the end to leave it all here. Life goes on, and you can’t just edit bad things out and pretend they never happened.

After Paddy having so many issues reminiscent of our last disaster dog, Mojo, the post below was sort of a way of me letting out the breath I had been holding for a year and saying “we got through it, and everything is going to be fine.”

I guess we didn’t, and it wasn’t. RIP Paddy, we did love you very much and hope you are at peace.


St. Patrick’s day has just passed, which means that another milestone also just went by. Guess who has been with us a whole year?

Last year at this time, Paddy was a gawky, goofy puppy that had been picked up as a stray with another puppy and brought to the Henderson County animal shelter. The other pup, a pretty little black Border Collie mix looking girl, got pulled by the Humane Society and found a home through them, leaving one more abandoned Pit Bull mix (out of what is literally thousands, at any given time, around the country) sitting at unwanted the shelter. He had no collar, no chip, no one came to claim him… the only relic of whatever past history he had was a shotgun pellet embedded under the skin of one back leg.

We’d been talking for a long time about getting another dog, but were trying to wait until Cricket and Lindsy had passed… he seemed like a really nice pup, though, maybe he was the right one for the house… and he probably wasn’t likely to get a good home. We debated and discussed, and the end result was that one clumsy brown brindle puppy went from being Dodge to Paddy.

I have to confess that there was a period of time where I actually wondered what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into in bringing him home – regretted it, even. Paddy is, well, a bit ‘different’. It quickly became apparent that he had some OCD quirks, and after the tragic nightmare we went through with Mojo, that was the very last thing we ever wanted to deal with again. He’d slide along the furniture like a cat then suddenly scream inexplicably like he was in pain, but we couldn’t find any source of injury. He had trouble settling down and paced and fidgeted ceaselessly, he couldn’t relax outside his crate. He hoovered strange things off the floor and ate them, on a constant basis. To my horror, he even chased his tail at times. Or attacked his own foot. Or his own ‘manly parts.’ He was prone to what we like to call ‘parkarrhea’, whereby an outing to a public place produced an explosion of near liquid diarrhea, without warning, even if he’d had perfect stool for days before. I am sure the diners that were sitting on a sidewalk patio on Main Street still have nightmares from one of those incidents.

But even though some of these behaviors were uncomfortably ‘Mojoesque,’ it was more a case of personality quirks than a hopelessly miss-wired brain, and I do have to say that the techniques we learned in trying to cope with Mojo’s issues came in handy with Paddy. He outgrew most of the really disturbing stuff, though he is still rigidly routine-driven — anyone who says ‘dogs live in the now’ has never seen Paddy pacing and anticipating the various milestones of his day. He mostly has gotten over the pica, but did apparently eat about a pound of moss he meticulously peeled off the ground under the hemlocks a while back; I found this out when having to pick up the large, bright green, fuzzy, fluffy turd he pooped out at Jackson Park.

He’s matured into a beautiful dog, and coming onto 18 months now he’s beginning to settle down into adulthood. His quirky personality is endearing and he makes us laugh, even if we also sometimes want to throttle him. What we originally mistook for a lack of intelligence is just the fact that Paddy sees the world through a different lens than the rest of us (I think his is actually more of a kaleidoscope) and the same dog that can sit for an hour, trancelike, watching dust motes swirl in a sunbeam also once quickly learned how to open a beer cooler so he could help himself to the ice.  He can be melodramatic and puts on an impressive sulk, sitting sideways in his armchair positioned like he’s driving a car. He yodels, he likes to line all of his nylabones up in a precise row on the floor, and he’s afraid of hats and moles. And large tomatoes. And tape dispensers that look like lions.  He’s just Paddy – and we love him.


Paddy says Hello

I was trying to get Paddy to bark on command but he apparently took ‘speak’ a bit more literally than that…

Who knew that Paddy would sound like a cross between Scooby-Doo, and Lurch from the Addams Family, if he could talk?

The tale, finally, of Paddy’s new sister Gwen

It must be pretty obvious by now that we added another family member back in in December, and I thought I’d take the time to finally explain how that came about. When we tell someone we got a new puppy, they invariably ask what she is, and when they hear us say that she’s a Pit Bull/Irish Setter mix the response is usually something like, “wow, what does THAT look like?”

Which is exactly what got us in trouble in the first place.

It all started when I was sitting at the computer surfing Craigslist one day. I routinely scan the Pets section for lost animals that might be at the shelter as well as flagging the puppy-mill people that post in violation of Craigslist policy. My eye was caught by the all-caps posting for free Pit Bull and Irish Setter mix puppies, and thought, “that’s crazy, this I gotta see.” I clicked the link…


…and came face to face with a little chocolate puppy with the cutest fuzzy ears I had ever seen.

I stared at the picture a while then I showed Joy, and she too was smitten. We began playing the ‘what-if’ game, since, you know, we had been planning on getting Paddy a companion at some point… but we quickly dismissed the idea because we’d really wanted to wait until Cricket was gone, and wanted to save another shelter dog, and didn’t want a puppy. And that was that. Until we went back and looked at the picture again and again. Maybe Paddy needed a friend now? He was out of his crate (this was before the Chair Incident) and it would be nice to have the two dogs grow up together… Eventually we decided that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to at least email and ask about her.

We got an almost immediate response; the lady said that puppies were the result of an accidental breeding of her brother’s Pit Bull and an Irish Setter belonging to a neighbor, the mother couldn’t deliver the pups and her uterus was rupturing, she’d stepped in an paid for the C-section to save the mom and remaining puppies, and raised the litter in her house. We had been interested in coming to meet the pups and mom, to get an idea of temperament, but she said she was all the way down near Clemson, SC and offered to meet us halfway in Greenville with the puppies.

At the last moment we stopped and asked ourselves: ‘what the hell we were doing’? We didn’t need a puppy in the house, this was a 12-16 year commitment we were talking about, and here we were about to meet some stranger in a McDonalds parking lot and try to evaluate the personality of a (probably carsick) puppy in that setting… and with all the dogs sitting in the shelter needing homes we were going to drive to SC to look at a puppy, all based on a photo…had we lost our minds? We decided to tell the lady that we were sorry to but we’d decided to wait on getting another dog – the day we’d agreed on meeting, Joy had to work late and it was sleeting, anyway.

But even so… at the last minute, we decided to add a P.S. to the note: to let us know if little chocolate puppy with the fuzzy ears puppy didn’t get a home within a week or so.

A week passed and we didn’t hear anything. Relief warred with disappointment, but it was all for the best, we figured. And then the following Sunday afternoon, we got an email that all the puppies had gotten homes… except for the little girl we’d taken such a shine to. Uh-oh.

The biggest reason we were so conflicted over this was not so much the addition of another dog – it was pretty much decided that we’d be getting one at some point – it was the fact that we felt really guilty that she wasn’t a shelter dog. If we did this, that meant the space we’d saved for some future dog that really needed saving would be taken. But, looking at it from the other side, we weren’t financially rewarding a backyard breeder, the mom was now spayed so we weren’t perpetuating a cycle, and ‘free’ puppies often become shelter puppies once the novelty of an impulse adoption wears off. From this standpoint, if we brought her home, maybe we weren’t saving a shelter dog this time, but we might well be keeping one out of a shelter. We decided that we would at least meet the little pup; if she was not the temperament we were looking for, we’d walk away. Even if we did take her and she turned out to be too much for us, we could foster her for a while, get her started on vaccines and training and then find her a more suitable home.

Off to Greenville Joy, Paddy, and myself drove, to meet in a park with the fuzzy-eared puppy and her mother. It was dusk when we arrived, and bitterly cold. There were two puppies – the lady’s brother had decided to keep one of the smooth-coated little girls and she came along for the ride. The little fuzzy-eared puppy was even more beautiful in person, and it was clear watching the pups that she was definitely the calmer of the two. The other one, who looked like a little miniature Paddy, was wild and fearless. The darker one wasn’t shy, but thought about new situations before rushing forward. The mother was awesome, she had a perfect temperament – confident, friendly, and well-mannered. We also found out the poor thing was eight years old and this wasn’t her first accidental litter. At least she’s spayed now, and I sure do hope they get that other pup spayed too.

Gwen’s mother, Sheba

Paddy ignored the puppies but was, of course, totally smitten with their mother. It was getting darker out and the wind had picked up. I think it was flurrying a bit. We’d really seen about as much as we could see of the puppy’s personality under those conditions, and she really did seem like what we were looking for. It was time to make a decision… we walked off a bit and discussed it quickly one last time, then walked back and I scooped up the little chocolate puppy. The four of us headed back up the mountain pass for home, one snoozing in the back seat, another curled up in my lap, and the other two of us alternately excited and worried we’d just done something really dumb.

The puppy, who became “Gwendolyn Fiona” is now just under 17 weeks old, housebroken since the first week, she’s doing really well with the cats, and Paddy absolutely adores her.


I think we chose well.

The day Gwen learned how to climb up on Paddy’s chair…