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Tuesday August 22 , 2017
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Pet Stories

I’m sorry, Wiggles

I was only a child and the rules set by my parents I had to abide by. How they felt a dog should live was not my desire.

In fact, I cried over you. To this day I still have occasional dreams of you outside in the elements, alone. I see you in the cold basement. I remember you whimpering for human contact, attention.

Perhaps you played a role in my character, mainly my fervor to aid creatures in need and connect with them all via limitless love.

I remember one day after grade school let out, climbing into our family station wagon to meet the black-and-white Lab-mix pup. I vaguely remember that my mom saw him with other pups in a newspaper ad by a local humane society. She picked him out.

A typical Lab personality, he was happy, energetic and earned the name Wiggles because that’s what he did.

Most of his puppy stage I no longer remember. I just remember him being kept in our basement with the door to the upstairs kitchen occasionally cracked open so he could see us. That door was hooked with a chain guard allowing just his nose to fit through.

 

A dose of the little jokers

It had snowed and iced the evening Trucker and I stood in a little park area across the street from my home.

He trotted up the dead-end street and I called him to return. In a happy frolic he gained momentum running towards me, aiming towards a dead-end street sign and a steel road barrier at the end of my driveway.

The street was icy and Trucker’s feet started to slip, making him look like Bambi on ice. He appeared happy, tongue hanging out, while I was worried and laughing as he headed straight towards the steel barrier and a mound of snow in front of it.

In a flash he reached the mound and leaped up, flying right over it and the barrier into a wooded area behind. Only a puff of soft snow lingered. I laughed out loud under a streetlight waiting for him to return from the brush and snow.

My pets never cease to make me laugh. I refer to them as my “little jokers” – and as the old saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. Studies show that it can lower blood pressure, help oxygenate the blood, reduce stress hormones, increase memory and improve creativity and alertness, among other positives.

   

Bonding lessons in photo sessions

Trucker came into my life on Valentine’s Day during an adoption fair at a local pet store. It wasn’t until Easter when I began to use him as a mannequin for festive holiday hats, scarves and headbands.

I’d say he wasn’t ready for this “torture,” but Trucker seemed to enjoy it and posed like a fashion model. In fact, he even yawned with boredom a time or two.

The classic first “Trucker bunny” photo (wearing rabbit ears) was sent to a large list of people via email including the kennel director who cared for him at a local animal shelter.

During the Christmas holiday season I strapped large red, felt reindeer antlers on his head in the backyard. He sat in the grass and yawned with an expression of, “Oh for God’s sake,” while I snapped his picture and laughed.

The best picture of that photo session is framed and on my bedroom dresser. He had moved to our patio with the antlers on his head and dropped to his back while I stood over him. I caught a picture of him from the chest up, his front paws curled over his chest and red antlers and collar contrasted against stones scattered with dry pine needles and pinecones. I titled the picture, “Dead reindeer pose.”

Taking pictures of pets in attire stems back to my childhood. I remember crocheting a tiny stocking cap for my hamster, Marshmallow, and a red-and-white Santa hat (equipped with ear holes) for my rabbit, Bosley.

In adulthood I’ve enjoyed taking photos of people’s pets in holiday attire at a local pet store to help raise funds for humane organizations. I’ve gathered a stockpile of hats, bow ties, headbands, eyeglasses, necklaces and so forth for every major holiday including Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Halloween. They are categorized in storage totes, making it easy to dress up my pets at whim.

   

Collar comprises a lifetime of love and adventure

Over the years I’ve kept the first collar or last collar that my pets have worn. It’s fun to look at the size of a kitten collar and compare it to the size of a cat’s neck as an adult.

The brown rolled leather collar my cat, Forest, wore as a kitten now hangs over the corner of a picture frame featuring him sleeping upside down in the middle of my bed when he was merely 4 months old.

A 1-and-a-half-inch-wide, red, martingale-style collar belonging to my dog, Trucker, will be retired one day, silently carrying a lifetime of stories about the adventures Trucker has put it through.

I reflected on these adventures recently when Trucker lost his collar and I feared I’d never see it again.

The collar’s Celtic knot motif in gray and red on black (a collar I special-ordered online) is symbolic for Trucker’s life to date. Celtic knotwork patterns are a symbol of life’s journey, a pathway to the sacred and divine source.

As I cautiously searched through a knotwork of thorny thickets for this lost neckband, I thought of the life’s journey Trucker and I have had together.

You see that late afternoon, just before dusk, Trucker crawled into thickets along the riverbank next to my home. Obviously a scent attracted him on this quest as I stood at a distance helplessly watching. He went into one side of the brush, I saw the bushes shaking and then a disturbingly loud growling and barking sound rang out. It wasn’t my dog growling and barking – it apparently was a raccoon. I hollered for Trucker and he popped out of the opposite side of the underbrush.

   

Sighs of Their Hearts

When I first met Trucker he was 5 years old, had been abandoned at least four times, scolded over showing separation anxiety brought on by that abandonment and strongly sedated in order to not hurt himself by chewing out of chain-link cages while residing at a shelter.

From a distance I saw him in a bustling pet store during a Valentine’s Day adoption event. His vivid black and white markings drew many people to him, including me.
Surprised, her mom asked, “How do you know?”
Holding the puppy close to her face she said, "Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart.”

I sat down beside him and listened to a shelter volunteer tell his story. Other prospective adopters kept walking when they heard about his behavioral issues.

His eyelids drooping, sleepy from taking a daily sedative and Prozac, Trucker looked like he wanted to lie down, to be “home” for once, to be loved by one last person or family for the rest of his life.

Within minutes he sat on my lap while I sat cross-legged on the floor. His 55-pound body dropped like a fawn into a fern bed, sprawling across my legs. He rested his head over my left arm and spoke to me with a memorable deep sigh.

That sigh released fear, anxiety and most importantly, it told me, “I’m finally home.” He fell asleep there and I sat holding him for what seemed like eternity.

When I met Trucker, it had been two years since my previous dog passed away. I fostered two dogs during that time but was hesitant to bring one into my life permanently. My first dog had become an angel. Call it divine intervention, but Trucker was obviously surrounded by a fleet of angels. He had survived being tossed out of a semi cab as a puppy, was rescued, sold at a garage sale, disposed of during a divorce situation, reclaimed by one of the divorcees and returned again to a shelter because of his anxiety.

   

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