Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gone to the Dogs

Checked in on my blogs today. I didn't mean to let a couple of years go by. What happened to the me that used to check on my blogs almost daily? Twitter, Facebook and dogs.

My life experienced a paradigm shift when I retired. I not only retired, I moved back to the States after 30+ years living overseas to a state and city where I knew two whole people other than my husband and son. I was no longer going in to teach daily, with the intellectual jolt and interaction with students and colleagues. I experienced culture shock. Eek. As great as it was not having to go to work each day, I also lost my reason for getting up and getting moving. I had health issues that needed to be addressed. I could have written posts about my difficult assimilation and my gall bladder issues, but I decided to spare you my misery. Are you bored with this paragraph of my life? I am. Bleach.

Moving on. I continued tweeting on Twitter. Compared to blogging, which takes hours, tweeting 140 characters is easy and fast. Feedback is quick, and plucking out interesting news, links and points of view out of the Twitter feed kept my attention much better than looking at a blank writing field and trying to fill it. But, too much Twitter made me twitch, so I even stopped doing that. Facebook kept me in touch with friends I had left behind, and it still does.

But, what mostly happened to me is that my life went to the dogs: young dogs, old dogs, puppies, shy dogs, happy-go-lucky dogs, well-behaved dogs, dogs who needed basic training.

Bogart on our deck, trying to hide under a chair.
It all started with a blurry photo posted by a new acquaintance on Facebook of a depressed young dog named Bogart curled up in the fetal position at the Blount County Animal Center where volunteers' efforts had not managed to get him to adjust to life at the shelter. He was about 7 months old and had spent his life living in the wild with his mother and brother. He wasn't eating and was skin and bones under his long hair. He was unadoptable and the outcome for him was not promising. I looked at that photo and thought, I think I can help him.

And that is a tale in itself, how I went to the shelter and registered as a foster, how Bogart would not walk on a leash and pooped and peed in fear when my son picked him up to carry him to our car, how he almost immediately escaped our fenced yard, how we tempted him back (salmon snacks), how each day for a month we focused on finding ways to help him make the small, gradual progress that eventually lead to him trusting us and us adopting him and renaming him Mr. Guster (AKA Gus, AKA Guster Longfellow).

George and Guinness, therapy pups.
Part of our therapy included bringing home a couple of bull mastiff puppies (George and Guinness) who found Guster fascinating. If he ran away, they ran after him. If he hunkered down, they climbed on top of him or hunkered down next to him. They helped him make a big leap forward into learning how to be a dog who loves humans.

After they left to be adopted through a rescue in Pennsylvania, other dogs and puppies came and went. In one year we fostered 34 dogs and puppies. Some stayed a few days, others a few months, depending on the need. Two sick little puppies did not survive. It has been an adventure that has introduced us into the world of animal shelters, rescues and dedicated volunteers who try to save as many lives as they can.

Guster, formerly Bogart, playing tug of war with shy Maxwell as Jadzia watches. Guster has moved from being the dog who needs help adjusting to the dog who helps other dogs adjust.
My screen saver shows me images of the much-loved doggy souls who have passed through our door, pooped in our yard or (in the case of puppies) on newspapers in our kitchen floor, curled up next to us on our couch and given us lots and lots of doggy kisses.

They told me when I retired, I would find something to do. It's more a case of they found me.

I occasionally watch an episode of a ghost hunting show, and my belief that the dead try to communicate with us from time to time has not changed, but I have long since lost interest in looking at picture and videos with which people try to prove the existence of ghosts. Boring and mostly bogus.

My life is focused on the living now, on those who need my help to stay alive and not become doggy ghosts before their time.

From left, son's dog Jadzia, rescued from an abusive airman who planned to dump her on a country road because he had orders for England and his attempts to house train her by beating her were not getting him the results he wanted; former foster dog Maxwell, another abuse victim who came to us a very shy dog, foster failure Guster who spent early life struggling to survive in the wild and has progressed from being depressed and afraid of all humans to my new BFF, Gidget, the only one in this image we acquired from a breeder, who acts as a therapy dog for many of our fosters, and current foster dog Precious who came to us looking like a plucked chicken suffering the effects of extreme neglect. She has her own Facebook page: Saving Precious