Dear Angel

Our Angel

Such a pretty little girl

On Friday night, I thought about washing the blankets on your dog bed. I tried again Saturday and they remain untouched. Before Friday, I wouldn’t even consider washing them. I wanted to keep you here, even in the smallest way possible. I guess I still do.

I call it your dog bed even though Fred enjoys it too. But you loved that bed, and while he would insist on being at the foot of our bed, under the covers and on top of my foot, you curled up alone. We would call your name and give you permission to jump on the bed. You stayed put. You needed your independence and that was okay.

I stared at the blankets and cried. I remembered telling Aunt Karen that I felt I would never stop crying. She said, “You won’t, but the time in between will become longer.” She was right.

I don’t want to stop crying when I think of you. I want to remember that you were that awesome, and you deserved to have someone mourn your absence. I still tend to dwell on the sadness, so I repeat my friend Khristina’s advice in my head: Think of everything we did do for you and don’t focus on the things we couldn’t.

But I miss you. I wish I could actually tell you that. Instead I’ll just write it here and hope it changes someone’s mind about pit bull type dogs. Maybe they’ll wonder how something supposedly so vicious could touch someone’s heart enough to make them write this letter on a blog.

If (when) we get a second dog, it will be in your honor. You were here for far too short a time but you enriched our lives and completed a happy family. Thank you for letting us be your humans.

I will miss you forever.

Smiling in her sleep...

Smiling in her sleep…

“They live and die for us. The pit bull deserves our utmost respect to be that loyal. We should all aspire to be more like the pit bull. Wearing our hearts on our sleeves, loyal to a fault and willing to die for those we love.” Unknown

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Oh Yeah, I Have a Blog!

Oh heyyyyyyyyyyyy!

It’s been a hot minute since I blogged. So long, in fact, that I’m now using grammatically incorrect phrases like the one you see above. Once you have graduated from “Preggo Brain” to “Mommy Brain,” you basically are grateful you can still form a sentence in English. You better get used to it.

But Baby H is here!

Anna Leigh, aka, Master of the Stink Eye

Anna Leigh, aka, Master of the Stink Eye

Er, well, she’s technically been here a while actually. Almost 3 whole months!

Fuzzy haired and quite happy about it

Fuzzy haired and quite happy about it

She is an absolute joy. We are very blessed with a baby who is a good eater and a good sleeper. What more could a mama ask for?

And even when she’s not at her finest, she is still relatively happy and easily comforted. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired. It’s worth it though, because she makes everything better.

Are YOU looking at ME?

Are YOU looking at ME?

But in the midst of all the happiness, we’ve also been dealing with sadness. Our female pit bull dog, Angel, was put down several weeks ago. She was increasingly losing weight and suddenly got very sick. She had always been a high-energy dog, but there was a change in her anxiety over the past month or so.

She was a little intense when Baby Anna came home, but not in the way you would think. I’m pretty sure Angel thought Anna was her baby. It was precious to see how much she cared. Unfortunately, I think her anxiety was just too much for her. If Anna cried, Angel cried, and sometimes when Anna was calm again, Angel still seemed to worry. But we still found our routine, and Angel was Mama’s little helper.

My girls

My girls

This increased anxiety combined with her sudden and alarming illness left us with a huge decision to make. She rapidly went downhill at the vet and started showing signs that sealed that decision for us. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even with the knowledge that it was the right thing. Her anxiety had now changed her quality of life, and we couldn’t be selfish anymore.

It’s been less than a month and I can finally say that I feel some peace. I welcomed my beautiful baby into the world and within 2 months had to kiss another baby goodbye. I thought Angel would be with us for many more years, running next to her baby sister and always keeping her safe.

Safest baby on the block

Safest baby on the block

Some things are not meant to be. The day I picked up her remains, I cried harder than I had in days. It felt like she had passed all over again, but it gave me closure at the same time. I placed the beautiful wooden urn on our mantel and breathed a little easier. The pain in my heart had been so palpable, I thought with each passing day that it would finally explode. Now, Angel was home once more. Maybe not in the way I would have preferred, but it was the best it could be, and I accepted the peace it brought me.

Forever in our hearts

Forever in our hearts

Since then, I still have my moments, but I am thankful for the short time we had with her. Her last memories were not of a shelter, or of being abused and neglected. We used to joke that our dogs are better taken care of than a lot of children, and the truth is, we love our dogs as if they really were our kids. I will never stop missing her or loving her, and this ache in my heart will never fully disappear.

Thankfully I have this face to wake up to every day.

Anna5

When she’s old enough, she will hear story after story of the big sister who had to leave us too soon. How she diligently sat by her swing and alerted Mama to her cries.

And I will forever be grateful that we did this:

Fred, Anna, Angel.12/13/12

Fred, Anna, Angel.
12/13/12

Our forever babies.

When Everything Changed

My blog post about Maverick has been on my mind this week. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the image of him malnourished, neglected and mistreated. I know he is now healthy and happy, and his story has the ultimate happy ending; a human who loves him like family.

The concept of “family” has been on my mind as well. I’ve been thinking about how humans can neglect and mistreat each other to the point where you wonder how they ever could have loved you at all. Sometimes reading words that “family” has used to communicate with me leaves me almost gasping for breath, thinking “Do I really mean this little to them? Am I really deserving of this treatment, this disrespect?”

Then I look at my dogs. We don’t know much about Fred’s history, but we’re pretty sure he wasn’t abused. He was very skinny when we adopted him but he also has severe food allergies. Our thought is his previous owners couldn’t “figure him out” and didn’t put the time and effort into the attempt. As hard as those first few months were, we never considered giving him up. He was and still is our baby.

Angel’s story is a little different. She was bred at ten months old, which alone is animal abuse, in my opinion. After a week (?!?!) she was taken from her puppies and dumped at the shelter. Three weeks later, her puppies arrived at the shelter, weak, malnourished and dying. They were all euthanized. With Angel’s skittish behavior (it’s pretty apparent that she was neglected, starved and probably abused) it’s a miracle she wasn’t euthanized as well.

Fast-forward to today, and she is loving, loyal, happy and a completely different dog. She loves people, children and dogs alike. She bonded with my aunt during her recent visit and proved that love really can conquer all. She had every right to turn inward, hate all humans and lash out at anyone who tried to touch her. Instead, she shows me unconditional love every day and has restored my faith in that concept.

Unconditional love. I’ve written about it before because honestly, when I do feel it from those who truly know how to show it, I almost don’t know how to receive it. I feel like I’m always waiting for something bad to happen, for someone to walk away, for those nasty words to find their way back to my ears and my heart.

Maybe one day I’ll be like Angel and my faith in humanity will return. Maybe I’ll be able to read a story of an abused dog and not feel that rise of hatred toward the human who caused all that pain. Maybe I’ll fully receive that unconditional love without waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The Truth about Pit Bulls ~ Facebook

What I know now is, the day Fred came home was the day I was forever changed. Adding Angel to our family just made my heart grow bigger. The lessons I learn from my dogs make me want to be a better human, a better wife and a really good mom. They make me want to pick up the broken and tell them there is hope, even when that concept seems impossible. Sometimes you just have to open your heart for the impossible to become a reality.

Just ask Angel, who is finally home, finally loved, and finally free.

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be…”

And so am I.

Book Review: One Unforgettable Journey

I was recently honored with the request to write a book review! My friend, K.B. Lacoste, co-authored “One Unforgettable Journey” with Dan Stallings, and my obvious interest in all doggies meant I had the privilege of reading and commenting on their story. Pregnancy made reading the book take longer than I had hoped, but better late than never, right?

The first few pages of “One Unforgettable Journey” reminded me of many stories I have read over the past few years. They introduced a man whose life was changed by a dog. Some may think that dogs are just pets, or just animals, or simply companions that keep us from being lonely. But then there are men like Dan, who prove that just one dog can start a chain reaction that will completely change your life. He met a Weimaraner puppy who tugged on his heart’s strings, and the rest, as they say, “is history.”

Meeting this puppy turned into adopting the puppy, which turned into owning two puppies so the first puppy wouldn’t be lonely. (It’s funny how that happens – *cough-Fred&Angel-cough*)

Eventually, Dan abandoned his “real” job and became a certified dog trainer and opened a rescue for Weimaraners. Any man who opens a rescue for dogs gets the seal of approval, in my book.

Although it was hard to read about Dan’s first meeting with Maverick, I consoled myself with the fact that the story had a happy ending. What started as simple interest in a Weimaraner listed for sale turned into the rescue of a lifetime. The ad described the dog as a show dog, and that sparked Dan’s interest, since dog shows were a foreign idea at the time.

But the “show dog” he met was far from show-worthy. He was thin to the point of being emaciated, and every bone showed through his neglected frame. His nails were overgrown, his body showed wounds and sores, and it was clear he was terrified of his owners, especially the child who should have been his best friend.

I have grown to look at dogs as more than just pets, and the idea of poor little Maverick in this condition was heart-breaking. I have seen too many dogs and read too many stories of the disgraceful condition that’s a direct result of abuse and neglect. Have you ever met or seen a Weimaraner?

Such a handsome man!

They are athletic and proud, and are truly a beautiful creature. The mental picture painted in this story still makes me angry, for no pet should ever get to this point. But that mental picture proved that Maverick needed an intervention, and thank God Dan answered that ad.

The next few months were challenging and difficult, but Dan powered through. He made Mav his number one priority and pretty much neglected his “real life” in order to nurse the poor guy back to health. But he didn’t stop at just seeing Mav healthy again; he wanted his new buddy to thrive.

Dan knew that Maverick had originally been a show dog, and he wanted to give him a chance to compete again. I couldn’t help but admire him for taking on such a mysterious world, just because he wanted to see Maverick in his element. The stories of the dog shows are heart warming and humorous. There is just something about a dog’s happy ending that makes my heart smile, and Mav’s is no exception.

I strongly encourage you to read Dan and Maverick’s story. You can head over to Maverick’s Facebook page and give him a good “like.” The pictures alone will make you smile! You can also read more about where Mav is today, and see how far he has come on his journey.

That journey truly was unforgettable, and I hope you will read more. Who doesn’t love a good doggie story?

Love ~ Hate ~ Summer

It’s no secret that summer is my favorite holiday. Summer means trips to the beach, but it also means flip-flops and tank tops. Now that I’m 6 months pregnant, I’m getting a lot of sympathetic comments like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you’re pregnant all summer!” I usually laugh and respond that I have handled the heat well, mostly because I can walk around in leggings, tanks and flip-flops and not be judged. I actually sympathize with those who are pregnant all winter, because their life consists of long pants, sweaters, coats (*shudders*) and closed-toed “real” shoes.

Bonus ~ only in summer can you can dress like a giant blueberry and accent it with a white cardigan and white pants!

Because, let’s be honest! I’m going to be sleep deprived, and if you’ve ever met me, you realize just how scary the beginning of this sentence really is.

Plus, my handsome Fred is definitely done with the itchies. As much as I love the warm weather, this dry season has made him quite miserable. I already spoil him rotten, but the added maternal instincts and hormones make me want to shake my fist at what causes his pain. Unfortunately that means summer has to leave us eventually.

 

“Nooooooo more itchies!”

For now, I’m going to enjoy the end of summer but actually look forward to the changing seasons. The end of summer, which usually brings sadness, is bringing the hope of something new…

Teehee!

…the joy of finishing a baby room…

…and the anticipation for our own little monkey.

And my husband is ready for football.

He’s a Redskins fan, shhhh….

Dogs Aren’t “Just” Anything

 

I wrote a post about Lennox a few weeks ago. Since then, I have prayed and hoped that somehow, he would be saved. Americans offered their homes, celebrities and politicians got involved, and hundreds of thousands signed petitions.

Lennox was killed today. He wasn’t put to sleep. He wasn’t euthanized. He was killed. All because he looks like a breed he isn’t, and because a council dug themselves into a hole too deep.

I went to bed with tears in my eyes because we read that he would be killed today. I remember waking in the middle of the night, suddenly, jolting out of sleep. I noticed my husband was awake too. I almost reached for the clock to see if it was that dreaded hour, but knew it would turn my already-hormonal self into a weeping disaster. Instead, I cuddled closer to Fred, felt comforted by the feel of Angel on my feet, and let sleep blissfully take over.

But this morning, I cried. I cried for Lennox’s family, the one who has fought for over two years for their darling pet. I cried for their little girl, who called him her world, her best friend. I cried for my own little girl who isn’t here yet, because the world I am bringing her into is one I am ashamed of right now.

Mostly, I cried for Lennox, who spent two years alone in a cell, with no human comfort and no reason to wag his tail. He died on a cold table without his family, and no one could ever explain to him why, even if they tried.

If you have ever referred to someone’s pet as “just a ____,” you haven’t felt the unconditional love of an animal. I used to be like that. I remember having a dog when I was younger, but I didn’t let myself become attached. The day my mom took him to the shelter, I cried like a baby. She wondered why I was so upset over an animal I didn’t seem to care much about.

I think even then, I knew that I could become “too” attached. When animals were hurt in movies, I cried. When other people’s pets died, I cried. I didn’t want to become attached because at one point, you always have to say good-bye.

A lot changed before I met Fred, but the day I met him, I was lost forever. Lost in his eyes and wagging tail, completely overcome with the love I felt from him and for him. My view of all animals changed, and I felt like my already-too-big heart grew three sizes. If it’s possible, it grew even more with the addition of Angel.

Pets, especially dogs, aren’t “just” pets. My dogs will never just be dogs. I have felt more love from them than from a lot of humans I know, and no matter how many times I yell or let them down, they are always there to cuddle me and lie on my feet. Always there to lick away the tears and give me a reason to smile and laugh.

RIP Lennox. I’m sorry we failed you. Humanity should be ashamed of itself today. We would live better and happier lives if we could learn to be “just” like our dogs.

Preggers-n-Pits

Fred and Angel joined me for our normal around-the-block walk this morning. I noticed a few people out and about, and passed a woman on the sidewalk. Now that I’m finally showing, I wondered if I was imagining her funny look or if it was really there.

I wondered if she was confused as to how I was walking these big, mean, vicious dogs, while pregnant, all by myself. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing people have flat-out said to me, “I hope you don’t have any children around those dogs!” I wondered if I was imagining her thoughts because I instantly take a defensive stance when I encounter other people while with my dogs. If someone smiles or (shock!) wants to pet them, I literally feel myself unclench and let that guard down.

It made me think of Lennox, a pit-bull-looking-dog in Northern Ireland. He was seized from his family two years ago. I imagine you are thinking, “Did he attack someone?” He didn’t. He didn’t lunge, growl, bite or pounce on anyone. He was seized because he looks like a pit bull.

Photo courtesy of “The Patrick Miracle”

He has been living, for two years, in a less-than-adequate shelter, surrounded by his own feces, while his family launched appeal after appeal. Their little girl wrote a letter to Santa, saying the only thing she wanted was for her best friend to come home.

Photo courtesy of Lennox’s family

But every judge ordered the same thing: that Lennox be put to death. For looking like a pit bull.

The best part? Lennox is not a pit bull. He is part American bulldog, part Lab. Do you know who else is part American bulldog?

“Lennox is my brother. :-(“

That’s right, our own handsome Fred. I shudder when I think of what I would be capable of if someone took him from me because of the way he looks. And I pray every day that no one has to find out.

If I could leave this world with one thing, it would be the image of me, pregnant, walking my two big, mean, vicious dogs. I want people to wonder how I can even do it, and then hopefully that small voice of logic will creep into their brains, telling them, “Because they are just dogs.”

The best dogs in the world.

Lennox as a puppy, in happier times. His sweet smile makes me cry.