Monday, July 07, 2008

DogSpeak


They are the left behind, unwittingly, unwillingly or without care, they are a mystery

They are the curiosity that bends with persistent hunger

They are the glimpse of another society

They are the mud under my fingernails, nails hidden in the everyday world of corporate law

They are the hole in my shirt, the rips in my jeans, the tear in my glove

They are the scratches on my face, the bruises on my legs, the rusted nail in my foot

They are the tools of my life, they are catch-poles, leads, choke chains, muzzles, stakes, bungee cords and bait

They are the crawlspace I navigate, where I lie under a rotted house, silent, as a lone junkie aimlessly wanders onto this deserted street

They are the rats, the snakes, the bugs and everything that crawls around me in the darkness

They are the machete I wield for vegetation that grows taller than me and the pocket-knife I hope to never wield

They are the rotten mold from washed-out front door to washed-out back door and every nook and cranny in between

They are the smell of death in so many vacancies and the picture of a life that used to be

They are the all night trapping session, two blocks from yet another murder
They are the ceiling I stare at when sleep won’t come

They are the maps I plot, every street, every bayou, every dead end, with points taken from photos, sightings and best guesses

They are the blowout on the interstate, the tire, sliced by a city of trash

They are the smell of hot dogs on my vegetarian fingers

They are the New York taxi whistle, and they come, now, but only if they are in the same section of this ravaged city that I am

They are frustration and anger, hindsight and if-only’s

They are determination and drive, they are my inability to give up or give in

They are the business suit covered in wet mud, burrs and thorns

They are the endless strategies and well-honed plans but they refuse to stay within the parameters

They are the traps set along the way when they won’t be found

They are the turning point of trust obtained in a place without boundaries, a place where it is theirs to give, not mine to take

They own the city but the streets have become my playground

They roam the night and the skin I walk in begins to feel like something other than human

They are the surveyors’ flags, the colored chalk, the paw-prints in the dirt

They lead and I follow, through, in, out, around and over ten miles square in any direction from their epicenter, ultimately covering 100 square miles of disaster ravaged Gentilly, Lakeview, Mid-City, Treme and the East

They are my most ambitious project, a year long plus, the alternative choice, to do nothing

They are my education in feralization, triangulation, domestication, the complete and total grasp of things beyond my control, nature, God’s will and life

They are my own magnificent obsession and I have become their most easily acquired possession

They are my success, they are my failure, my highest high, my lowest low

They are two bonded canines, two dogs who roam a city laid waste to Katrina, and I am their tracker, their stalker, their shadow, their menace and their friend

They have changed my life more than I have changed theirs

They are Rocca and Boy


Rocca’s trust came fairly early on, his would be much harder to work for. With claim to a large territory and no rules, no restrictions, it would be months in between their visits but as the walls of distrust were broken down, the visits were longer. When I first spotted Rocca in February of 2006, and then wrote about her and our then year long journey together, “Still Here, Still Counting on us in NOLA” nearly a year later, I did so with the mistaken assumption that the feral and huge male dog she traveled with was the pup I had first seen her with but it would be many months before I would be able to put all the puzzle pieces together. By the Spring of 2007 these two dogs and I interacted from afar, but there was nevertheless an interaction....they managed to make me feel safe in an otherwise unsafe way to spend my time in this city, alone and rescuing animals. Things changed however not long after that and it wasn’t until after I posted their story in February 2007 that I began to see this pair more clearly because the responses were amazingly unexpected.....turns out I wasn’t the only one in the city who knew this pair of dogs. Over the next few months, I compared notes, photos, sightings, all with other rescuers, feeders, people still working to reunite, people here in this city and people who had been here shortly after Katrina and we soon learned that the story behind the story of these two dogs was something surreal and something we would likely never truly know and it was the catalyst of my reaction, a reaction that would ultimately push me to limits I might never have known I had.

Easter Sunday Miracles
It was like any other Sunday, traveling down S. Miro street looking for signs of life and there was really no thought process to the whistle but she heard it, they heard it and there they were, after more than two months of any sighting of them...had they been rescued, had they been killed or were they possibly holed up somewhere with a new litter? When I discovered that others in this city and beyond were familiar with this pair of dogs, we all feared for them when a photo taken in late January 2007 by a rescuer in Lakeview revealed what looked like a nursing dog...Rocca had pups somewhere, but where? I myself had seen her only one time after that photo was taken and it was on that day, a cold February morning on the very same street that Rocca had allowed me to touch her head. A year had passed since I first saw her, a pathetic and emaciated creature with her pup and they had been gnawing on a rotten, moldy pet food bag, an empty one and now here we were, a year later and finally, she trusted my hand would not inflict pain and I worked hard to contain my excitement so as not to lose that trust...and then she was gone. So months later on that Easter Sunday, when they appeared at my whistle, it was somewhat of a shock, and it was strange but now she wanted my attention, it was more than allowing it, she was soliciting it. What girl? Here you go, what’s a matter, you don’t want the food? What is it? What? And so I did what she wanted, she couldn’t talk and I hadn’t learned canine language but it was clear what she wanted and so we traveled the path together, she in front and then alongside my truck and me just going her way...she took me over a mile that day, into a part of the city I was then unfamiliar with and ultimately they would take me to places that aren’t on any map, but today there was a plan.


My life with Rocca and Boy, changed that Easter Sunday and although I will never know the reason she took me to her solitary pup, did she want her freedom back or did she want me to help the smaller version of her, I do know that she clearly and un-mistakably brought me into her world. Another zip code, another abandoned house, but underneath, a small puppy, hers...and possibly his. He followed us although I didn’t know it until he just appeared again, curled up, way back under the house, not to be bothered, not to be touched. I did what I’m fairly certain she wanted, I took the puppy and she was long ago adopted. Did she look for me that day? Did she just stumble upon a familiar face? Did she give the puppy up so it could be safe or so that she could roam again?

Becoming Canine
Although Rocca drastically changed the moment I took her pup away, she grew loving and affectionate, she was beyond my grasp because of him. Boy as I had named him, believing him to have been hers, was feral, was beyond feral...he was an elusive giant, a giant of a dog who hid in plain sight but who clearly was extremely bonded to Rocca. So where she went, he followed...at least I think he followed, he always just appeared and then would retreat under the house or building, whatever was close enough to shroud him from the world and me. I could have easily taken Rocca to be safe, just like I had with her pup, but what would happen to him? I knew enough to know that I would never see him again, I knew of his existence only because of her so for the time being she would have to remain on the streets, unsafe and so often unseen. As my bond with Rocca grew daily, I knew that they would eventually return to their nomadic life and so plans were made, traps were set, observation after observation was made and at a point in my life I never expected, I became a student again. The mission to take these dogs off the street became a full-blown study in canine behavior and I found myself knowledgeable of another world, another life and unlike any classroom I have ever been in, this education was hands-on....in order to get the dog, I had to learn the dog and in order to learn the dog, I had to be allowed into their pack.

Leader of the Pack
Between Easter Sunday of 2007 and the late summer, I learned, breathed, ate, slept and lived dog.....I watched, I waited, I studied, I read, I observed, I hung back, I joined in, I worked to become part of their inner circle. Nearly all my research had to be conducted in the field because there seemed to be very little research out there regarding feral dogs or dog packs and none existed regarding packs that inhabit a disaster-impacted region, so I dug in my heels and began the journey to becoming canine, behaving canine, making them believe that I was yielding to their language, their behavior, their world instead of forcing them to yield to mine. I struck gold when I was able to find one man, a scientist, a man by the name of TJ Daniels who is the Co-Director of the Vector Ecology Laboratory at New York City’s Jesuit University, Fordham University. When I found an article, or a snippet of an article he had written in the mid 1980's regarding feral dogs behavior, I wrote to him and begged him to sell me the article because although it could be purchased, I would have to enroll at Cornell University to gain access to it....I had two dogs to rescue, I was fairly certain that Cornell was not in my near-future. Dr. Daniels, with no other knowledge than my plea with a brief explanation as to why I wanted the article, was gracious enough to mail a package to me and in that package was pure gold....Dr. Daniels sent me a copy of every article he published during his graduate research and even after, at least a dozen articles on feral dogs, feral dog packs, feral dog behavior, feralization theories....I would soon immerse myself into a feral world in order to gain a better understanding of what I was trying to do. The days and nights I spent out there joining Boy and Rocca’s pack was a once in a lifetime experience but it was Dr. Daniel’s work and his publications regarding that work that allowed me to truly become somewhat knowledgeable about these creatures and for that I am eternally grateful.

Dog Days of Summer
And so I joined Rocca and Boy’s pack and learned not to worry as much about them....if they were in the area of the city that I was, my whistle would give away their location every time. Over time, Boy became less guarded and more curious until the day came where he came nose to nose with me as I sat in the grass....he was huge, he had always given clear warnings to me when I would try to coax him out from under whatever structure he was hidden, and so when he placed his snout next to my ear and I felt his hot breath as he stood taller than I sat, I was terrified of him, of what might happen, and more terrified of him knowing my terror....so I didn’t breathe. After deciding I was not dinner, he turned and walked away and only then did I regain movement, but what a charge of electricity went through me as well! Whatever the change, it was a change. He was behind me without a sound and then his giant face was near mine, sniffing for an indication that he should bite that face, but he didn’t. Over a matter of days, weeks, he would allow touch, human contact with his fur, his many scars that lined his face, his head, his ears...was he a fighter, bait or just her protector? This gigantic creature who had previously shown no desire to interact with me or any other human, had taken steps in a different direction and I wondered, can we go down this path or will the lack of boundaries prevent this journey? The city was theirs and ultimately, their actions with me was theirs to choose...would he, like Rocca, choose me, a human? Would he interact with a species that evidently had no control over him?

As the summer months became unbearable, I began to see the pair more often, not always in the same part of the city, almost as if they had a better read on my whereabouts then I had on theirs. The traps and poles had long been put away and instead my tools of choice were hot dogs, canned food, my whistle and my affection and they were working. Boy was beginning not only to enjoy my attention but to solicit it, if they came running when I whistled, it was Boy who eventually would be in the front, tail wagging and a huge grin-like expression...Boy’s expression was almost clown-like, he always seemed to be laughing at me and so I laughed at him and eventually it was as if we were all laughing together. But, I knew this would have to end and my plan to take them off these streets would have to come to fruition, but how? Their trust in me was undeniable, their affection for me was mutual as I came to love them but not like any other animals I had rescued, I began to love them and understand them for what they were, or so I thought at the time, but I still had so much to learn.

Labor of Love
When all my attempts to leash Rocca failed because of Boy’s possessive-like ownership of her, when all my attempts to lure them both into my vehicle with hot dogs, when all my attempts to trap them, one way or the other, had failed miserably, a decision had to be made because Rocca was once again, pregnant. It was late August, 2007 and she would be delivering soon enough. The decision to take her off the street and to ARNO was ultimately made by a vet student who did not care that they were bonded, did not care that Boy might disappear, did not care that I had not seen Boy for two days now, she wanted Rocca in now and again, I am eternally grateful for her decision, one I couldn’t make. Rocca delivered four pups by C-Section the week of Labor Day and we were told that had I left her out there to deliver as we waited for Boy to reappear, she and the pups would have died due to a breach presentation. So now I had Rocca and her precious pups, but as much as I loved Rocca, Boy was the one who had my heart. I had believed him to be Rocca’s feral pup and then believed him to be her mate, but it wasn’t until one of our last times together, all three of us, that I knew I would never know Boy’s story....as he groomed himself one lazy summer afternoon, I saw it or rather I didn’t see it....Boy was neutered, there was nothing there that could have meant he was the father of Rocca’s pup and more importantly, it was on that day, nearly a year and a half after first seeing Rocca and that pup, that I finally realized Rocca was not the only owned dog prior to Katrina...Boy was neutered so Boy was someone’s dog at some point. This realization hit me hard because Boy was human-aversive, human-avoiding, human -aggressive and I had worked for so many months to gain his trust and his companionship and now I learned he had been part of the human world after all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

One at a Time

Today was one of the bad days, one of the days when you just wonder why you bother and it's near bedtime for me now, but thanks to an old friend, I won't go to bed wondering tonight.


"Wizard" at Animal Rescue New Orleans, September 2006














I was very down most of the day after getting the news that "Arlo" had been euthanized. Arlo was a cat I had never even known except for the few minutes I saw him last night after having been dropped off because he appeared ill. Arlo was a skinny orange and white nobody's cat that had wandered into the yard of a local hostel where some of ARNO's volunteers live while they are in New Orleans and Arlo didn't look good. After checking his symptoms on the internet, it was decided that Arlo should be brought to the after hours emergency vet for evaluation of possible poisoning. Today I got the news that Arlo had been poisoned and antifreeze was probably the weapon of choice.

The entire afternoon dragged on mercilessly and even after visiting the hostel this evening, it was clear that I will not find out who or what happened to this cat and so the rest of the evening was more of that down and out feeling of why bother, why do we do this when this is what we deal with?? I didn't imagine that I would find my answer tonight, but I did and the answer is that we do this one at a time, each one matters and we can't forget the ones that we succeed with and for, like my old buddy Wizard, my one-eyed purple stitched up beautifully white feral cat who was rescued in September, 2006 and brought to ARNO. I fell in love with Wizard back then and first told you about him on September 11, 2006 in "Why I help Animal Rescue New Orleans"

Tonight, while wondering why, I came across Wizard and it turns out Wizard has his very own Catster page, so I guess he's a blogger like me and there really is no story to this, no happy ending for Arlo, no satisfaction for me in finding the person who did this, there's just Wizard's Catster page, complete with pictures of him at home with his feline family and I guess for now, for tonight, his Catster page is enough for me to stop my wondering and go to bed.....One at a Time....that's all we can do and so tomorrow, I'll get up with a different perspective, I'll still be sorry that we couldn't help Arlo and that we even have to try, but I'll think about Wizard and all the other one-at-a-times out there.

Photos of "Wizard" in his family home, October 2007

Be sure to click on title hyperlink above, "One at a Time" to visit Wizard's blog page!




For Shannon





Monday, May 26, 2008

Reunited























Photo Montage by Gerald Pool, ARNO
Photos by Lise McComiskey, ARNO

Nearly a year ago, in June 2007, I posted a story about Billy the Kid, in my story, "Moment of Grace" Billy is a feral dog very close to my heart and the story revealed my second-guessing seperating him from his brother Jesse to send him to his forever home in Colorado and the resolution that followed. Nearly nine months later in March 2008, Billy's brother, Jesse, found his own forever home....reunited with Billy in Boulder, CO. Marsha and Ray Steckling gave Billy a new life and wanted to do the same for his brother and for that I and ARNO are forever grateful.

Please click on the title above, Reunited, to see some of the touching photographs that Marsha, a professional photographer took of this reunion and please paste the website address listed below in your browser to see just how Marsha (and her sister Jeanne) are making a difference for Katrina animals nearly three years after the disaster.

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/video_legacy/15916738/index.html

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Quiet Rescues















Paul, Natalie and "Custer"

The ARNO family had a quiet rescue this week, one that comes without all the fanfare and drama that some rescues deliver (some of us just have to do things the hard way!) but it was a rescue that made me appreciate all the quiet rescues that we all help facilitate on a regular basis.

No more than two weeks ago, a large yellow dog was spotted roaming around the vicinity of where our shelter is, always spotted by others who reported back to us, businesses along the main highways and streets in what is basically an industrial area of the city. The dog had yet to be spotted by any of us until the middle of this
past week when yet another business owner spotted the dog and came to the shelter, grabbed Robin and a catch pole and headed out to find the dog had again vanished. I left the shelter early that night to ride around and sure enough, there he was cruising down the street but unwilling to stop for a whistle or an offering of
food. He was skittish and scared of human contact. So we set a trap that night near his path where he had been spotted and hoped...we caught a cat and just imagine the sight of two petite women (Laura and Nat) rolling a large dog trap back to the shelter (about two streets over) on a rolling pallet because there was no way they were going to release an intact cat!

So the next night I headed out, once more trying to determine the dogs whereabouts and once again here he or she comes, pretty much down the same path, cruising down the main street and crossing over at the major highway to hit the garbage dumpster at the steak restaurant.....again, not stopping when food was offered and only
speeding up to get away from a human.

Of course, all night I couldn't sleep and thought about the collar on the dog and thought about a plan and thought some more. The next day, Friday, I emailed Natalie at the shelter to let her know that with only 3 hours of daylight to work with between the time I got off of work and the time the dog would likely come through again, my plan was to stop only for bacon, get to the shelter, change into trapping
gear, drive a couple miles away, unlock some traps at another location, head to the firestation to obtain the help of the firefighters all in the nick of time so that when here comes the dog at about 8:30ish, bam, he goes right into my bacon lined trap and we call it a night.

Thank goodness some things don't go as planned and thank goodness sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time and be in the right frame of mind to do what we do best...rescue. Although I was prepared to stalk this dog (especially since he was in our territory and especially since he had a collar) I can't honestly
say I was looking forward to the hunt...this dog looked like a pet not a street dog and all day Friday I kept checking the updated weather forecasts, all saying thunderstorms likely for Friday night...add to that the window of time I knew I had to make things happen just to get everything in place and then hope the dog would
come through the same path at the same time..that's a lot to hope for.

When I arrived at the shelter yesterday, in the rain and after stopping at two places
to find bacon and darn well speeding the rest of the way because you know the sun was going down, I arrived to silence which was odd but I ran inside anyway, tossed the bacon in the microwave, changed my clothes and ran outside to find one of our teenage volunteers sitting there...."where is everybody?" I asked and was told that they went to get a dog by the tracks, one that is injured. Well my heart sunk
right there on the spot, but I ran it and got the greasy half cooked bacon and drove over to the lot I knew the dog would go through at this time of the afternoon....and there they were, Natalie, Paul and four of the muddiest dog legs I have ever seen. I couldn't see the dog, only the muddy legs but I knew if they were standing right next
to Paul and Nat's legs, even though the dog was out of view, if the legs weren't, I wasn't going to be losing any sleep that night and this dog was one for the "rescue" column. Well the happy ending for this story started with Custer, that's our newest dog, and his decision to walk straight up through our neck of the woods, right
past the shelter, on Friday afternoon, during daylight hours...and everything fell into place when Natalie happened to be looking outside our glass door and couldn't believe her eyes when here comes Mr. Elusive. My guess is that Custer was making all the plans for this rescue and all the traps and bacon and firefighters in the world
wasn't going to change this one. Natalie followed Custer, around the block and across that main street but first asked Paul to follow her in his truck and by the time it was all done, Paul and Natalie both had used good sense and sound judgment and when they saw a chance to allow the dog to corner himself by walking through a gated area to eat some cat food, they took it....they told me that once Custer knew he was cornered, he gave up and who could imagine that the dog who was giving everyone in the neighborhood the slip was such a sweetie?? All I know is that when I saw those muddy legs and then Natalie and Paul's faces, I was ecstatic and never happier to see two people than I was at that moment.

So this quiet rescue of Custer by two people who on any other given day of the week are two people that help at the shelter, made me realize just how special our ARNO team is and just how happy I am to be part of their team. Our small but dedicated group of local volunteers who help make this shelter run every day is a group of
individuals who not only care about the animals that they look after day and night, but they care about each other and do what it takes to make each other's tasks and efforts a little easier and sometimes, their efforts help someone else get a good night's sleep. So with that in mind, I am taking a minute to express my thanks at being part of and having around me a wonderful shelter team that starts but does
not end with our shelter director Robin. Some of our most special rescuers who help get whatever it takes to get things done at the shelter (and beyond) but may not always get all the fanfare of the not-so-quiet rescuers, are:

Natalie - Natalie is our on-site person who I know Robin counts on a lot. Natalie is a genuinely caring person, towards people and animals and on top of everything else she does, she is very special to me because she is Boy's "other" handler...if Boy took to her right off, she must be special, right? Thanks Natalie for rescuing Custer
and for loving Boy and for just being there at ARNO to help make what we do possible to keep doing.

Laura Richard - Laura is our local photographer who helps with Petfinder and other projects and aside from overall type of help at the shelter including animal care, Laura is one of the people who administers meds and more individualized care to the animals..she's pretty good with a needle too. Laura was the one who loved one of
my other special projects, Rocca Zu, Boy's running buddy for nearly the two years he was out there. Rocca was always a people person but when she came to the shelter, she truly blossomed under Laura's very loving care. Thanks Laura for loving Rocca Zu and also for just being there at ARNO to help make everything possible.

The cat team - Anastasia, Tom, Nicole and Beth and Chamaine This bunch are the ones who keep our cats cared for and very loved....our cats have just the perfect hammock, the perfect toy, and everything else they can hope for until they are adopted. While Anastasia, Tom, Nicole and Beth care for our cats at the shelter, Chamaine works hard to place our cats into loving homes. Thanks Cat Team for being
part of the local crew that helps make things possible for ARNO.

Mimi - everybody knows Melinda's baby Sarah but Melinda or Mimi as we call her is one of those quiet ones who can move mountains if she needs to. She is a tiny person but can do the work of many people and she often does. Mimi can handle some of the toughest dogs but one of my favorite images of her is when she was good and pregnant
and napping in a kennel with Buzzy, one of the Lunchbox Gang members. Thanks Mimi for sticking it out with ARNO for a long time now, and I am grateful that you are part of its foundation.

Kelly Faye - Kelly is a firefighter so you know she is a strong person but Kelly is very special because she has helped ARNO so much with its cats...she has fostered many of ARNO's tougher cat cases and some of its ferals that for whatever reasons had to be socialized. Kelly has bottle fed many litters and many solitary tiny and helpless kittens as well..and she has had to deal with the pain of the ones who just couldn't be saved, for those she is most special because she has been the meal, the warmth, the love that they never would have known but for her. Thanks Kelly for everything you do for ARNO.

Tanya O'Reilly - Tanya helps at the shelter several days each week and she also helps out behind the scenes...she is the one who brought the Bacon family to ARNO last Christmas and I know there are other things in the works that she is helping with as well. Tanya is also one of those people who spends time away from the shelter either feeding or working to trap stray dogs...she was involved with Bandit,
our former feral, long before he came to ARNO. Thanks Tanya for being part of ARNO's team and for helping the stray dogs too. ARNO also has some fairly new volunteers who have already started to become regulars who the core volunteers count on for their help and they are also just nice people to be around to make our efforts more
enjoyable. Three of these volunteers who come to mind are Nicole, Paul and Karl. Nicole helps out with our dogs and we definitely missed her when she recently was gone for a few days..thanks Nicole for helping ARNO. Paul is the other half of Custer's rescue team and is genuinely helpful to everyone at ARNO, Paul was one of about four of us who missed JazzFest last weekend and instead joined us at
ARNO to walk dogs after and during a rainfall that left thigh-high water in front of our shelter...thanks Paul for rescuing Custer and for being willing to help all of us at ARNO no matter what the task is or how dirty it might be (puppies!) Finally, Karl is also a volunteer who has been coming to ARNO for just a couple months but
already has become a regular that we count on to help get things done...Karl also helps with the dogs but is also pretty handy with the zipties..thanks Karl for helping out at ARNO!

So what started out to be possibly another tough rescue and one that time was going to be of the essence because of the busy highways this dog travelled, Custer's rescue by two of ARNO's volunteers who normally and routinely help at the shelter was appreciated not only by Custer for saving his life, but by me, one of those not-so-quiet rescuers who really really needed a good night's sleep last night instead of a night hyperfocused on a bacon lined trap.....I am so glad I get to spend my time with the quiet rescuers who are ARNO.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Keeping Promises

Photo by Laura Richard

I am sitting here tonight working on the conclusion to the long, two year story of Rocca and Boy but now I have to take a break to watch the clock....

For the next 59 minutes, I can't work on my story because I am
sitting here watching the clock and I'm not a clock watcher, but
tonight, I can't do anything but watch the clock. I'm sitting here
with a rusty choke chain around my wrist as I type this and I am
counting down the minutes, only 58 left to go now, 58 minutes left
before I can take the rusty chain off my wrist and finally put it
away.

Rocca Zu's plane will be hitting the tarmac at Oakland International
Airport tonight at 8:49 Pacific Time, only 57 minutes more and when
Flight 285 finally pulls up to Terminal 1, I can finally put away
Rocca's rusted out collar, the one she was wearing the very first
time I spotted her over two years ago as she roamed the city, emaciated, and with the first pup I saw her with, one of at least
three litters I know she had while out there. During the time I
spent with her on the streets, trying to resocialize her and getting
to know her elusive running partner, Boy, I took that rusty collar of
hers and put it in my glove compartment and that was a litte over a
year ago. That collar meant everything to me because it meant that
Rocca was somebody's dog once and I knew that meant that I wasn't
going to quit until she got back home or if that wasn't possible,
until she was once again, somebody's dog....that collar was a promise
I had to keep.

Tonight, Rocca Zu is going home and she is going to be somebody's dog again. Adele, a volunteer from just outside of San Francisco adopted Rocca and so now in just 50 minutes, Rocca will finally be home and that means in just 48 minutes, I can put away that collar, a collar that is finally a promise kept.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wind Beneath Our Lips Smiles
















Photo of Winston, one happy dude by Laura Richard


Surely during these past two years of tracking Rocca and Boy (and others) I have learned a lesson or two of that to come but, today, on the way back from the shelter at lunchtime, I got schooled again, and wouldn't you know it, by a dog!...go figure. Anyway, it had me cracking up laughing during the rest of the drive so I thought I would share it with you guys too.

When I got to the shelter to visit Boy I immediately noticed a flower bouquet with a huge It's a Boy balloon and I thought oh no, have I been so engrossed in my mission with Boy that I missed somebody being pregnant let alone now having delivered the baby??? I frantically tapped on Robin's glass and yelled so she could hear me in her office and asked her who had a baby.....she turned around from the computer and said you did, we did...what?? Go read the card.....Gerald, you sweet goofball, you had me there! Gerald sent all of us, ARNO's "Team Boy" a beautiful bouquet to congratulate us on our Boy. G, that was such a nice thing to do and I'm glad that I didn't miss someone's blessed event and that instead I just always have to have the punch line explained to me! So after my lunch visit with Boy, I am headed back to work and there he is, right in front of me, a big white-yellow dog who is roped down pretty good so that he is able to stand in the back of a pick up truck without being tossed about but able to move around. So I stay behind him thinking, okay, hope this goes well and he doesn't fall out and just as I am thinking about this, the dog stands up on his back legs, puts his front paws on top of the pickup cab, right in the middle standing behind the window to the cab, and begins to surf a ride down Jefferson Highway into New Orleans. The two guys in the truck were driving slowly enough so that he was safe, but with enough speed so that he could take in the wind as it flapped his ears behind him and he maneuvered even a turn in the highway like a pro surfer. As I pulled into the other lane so I could drive alongside him I looked over and the dog was of course smiling at me....I'm sure it was the wind under his lips but it was still a smile. And then I looked at the guys in the truck and just cracked up and they of course laughed too. As I eventually turned off, I checked my rearview mirror and he was still up there surfing and continuing to work his crowd.

So maybe the dog is right and maybe it's not always about where you start or the destination you think you might be headed too....while you focus on your missions, don't forget that the wind in your hair, the blue sky around you, the sun on your face, and the smiles directed your way.... all that is free and pretty good stuff.

And even though I have been pretty focused, I haven't missed all the good stuff...........like the guy in California who knows just how to share your
complete happiness as well as your sorrows, or the girls in Oregon who seemingly drop everything to get thousands of tennis balls wrapped and tagged and sent this way for a doggie parade, or the lady in Texas who watches and waits, at night, to try and figure out just how that stubborn chow Cora is getting from one side of the fence to the other and makes you laugh until you cry while reading her letter about catching that dog in the act and how she looked like a bear as she climbed that fence. Besides all the hard work and efforts that each and every one associated with this group puts in to make things happen, each one of you bring a unique, often
quirky,always endearing quality to life along this mission of ARNO's and those unique qualities each of you bring to this group hasn't been lost on me. I love Laura B. sunny disposition and I love Chris B.'s energy to turn over every stone to put families and pets back together. I love Laura R.'s "hippy" ways....she's 25 or so and signs off with Peace and Love and her favorite band are the Monkees! I love Kelly Fay because she introduced me to hummus, a paste I would never even think about getting near and now because of her, I have a $6.00 a month addication to Mona's hummus...more good stuff along the way. I love Melinda's sailor mouth and even though it probably won't be good if her Beast's first words are foul, I have to admit that I secretly hope it is because I half want to see what a lady-like Melinda would be like (just kidding, don't hurt me Melinda!) I love Shelley J.'s hair....on her 11th trip here this past time, I found the nerve to tell her that I can always tell how hard she has been working at ARNO and for how long by how messy her hair is....a week into the job and she has hair in all directions which of course makes me love her all the more. I love Natalie's tendancy to hug me and without even knowing if it's because she thinks I need one or because she needs one but I don't much care because I have become a hugging type person in the past two years, and dirty kennel-cleaning, dog-walking smelly hugs are the best!

I love Charno because she is the only adult I know with pigtails and even though she recently opted for a glamorous cut which makes her look fabulous, I have sort of been missing the pigtails. I love Darla because everytime she comes to NOLA, she brings cake and good cookies and not much else to survive on from what I can see.

I love Auntie Karen's packages....a box from Auntie Karen is like getting the secret decoder package that Ralphie keeps hoping arrives in "A Christmas Story" only Auntie Karen's packages have good stuff in them instead of a decoder which reveals that you should eat your Ovaltine, her packages have treats for four leggeds and two leggeds, good stuff.....Ryan's grilled vegetables, GOOD STUFF!.......Tanya's ability to make me laugh as she refers to puppy paper with profanities, Anastasia's willingness to come to the shelter on days off just to check that all cats got litter pans and nobody was missed.....Aleta and John's endless talents from jewelry making to photography to finding the perfect materials for cat hammocks.....Jeanne's desire to become a Fat City bartender who sleeps in her car just so she can come back and help ARNO....good stuff, and Sweet Old Bob because he is really Sweet and funny as hell Old Bob.....all of this is what I consider the good stuff along the way, along my focused missions and ARNO's focused missions.

And of course there's Robin....the only shelter director I can imagine that is okay with me being me even on a bad day, and welcomes we whether I am there to clean poop or, as was the case recently, if I am there to "knock her out" as I told her when I
arrived when she made me very angry....when I told her I only came that night to punch her in the face, poof, the anger was gone and we both laughed so hard at the idea of her calling my husband to tell him she had a busted mouth...she lets our unique qualities be our own, good, bad or ugly and that skill is always good stuff.

So there it is, some of it anyway, doggie lessons 101....that dog was soaking it up today and even Boy-focused, ARNO focused, mission focused or not these past few years, I haven't missed soaking up some of it myself, I just forget sometimes to give you a wind-under- my-lips smile at you as you pass.

It's all about the journey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"The Best Damn Dog Tracker in New Orleans"


Photo of me and "Boy" by Natalie Flood, ARNO Volunteer
Click on title above for full story, written by Pam Freni,
"The Best Damn Dog Tracker in New Orleans" published Feb. 15, 2008 on Best Friends Website

Buzzy and Me


Photo by Laura Richard

Me and "Buzzy" at Barkus parade 2008. Buzzy, just one of the loves of my life, is one of the "Lunchbox Gang" the crew that I socialized in place for three months before their capture in Spring, 2007