Monday, January 24, 2011

about my Kip, and if you're thinking of getting a pet

Kipper is turning 3 soon. Seeing her sitting here at my feet, quietly chewing her blue dinosaur, I marvel at how wonderfully she's blossomed since coming to me as a tiny puppy, how she really is such a sweet little dog. Her friendliness overwhelms everyone. She did great at doggy training school. She visits nursing homes. And do you know, she poops and pees once in the morning and once in the evening on a pee tray in the backyard (note: these doggy pee trays are just the bee's knees for people who don't want to wade with their dog through questionable poo-ridden grass at toilet time) -- she opens the door to the backyard herself whenever she needs to go potty -- I mean, man! I couldn't ask for more.

(OK. I must say it again. I am a BIG proponent of the wonderful pee tray. My various old dogs -- all large breeds -- used to poop and pee outdoors, and on paper when it rained. That essentially meant they got their paws gooky on the paper, or gooky outdoors, besides picking up ticks and other nasty things. But smaller breeds like Westies have the advantage of being able to successfully step on and use a pee tray -- yay! The pee goes right through the grating, and it's a breeze to clean up.)

But while I marvel over all that, what I marvel perhaps even more at is how she could have been abused and abandoned to begin with. For she was the sad result of some unethical clown's irresponsible breeding. When she came to me, she was a tiny, sick, malnourished 2-month-old, the most melancholy, subdued puppy I'd ever seen in my life. She had that sort of sad, resigned, quiet maturity one sees in children who have been bullied and beaten down, who have gone through things no child should ever have to experience. She would sit there forlornly, periodically hacking her lungs out. She was very, very timid. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in those early months working on both her health and her temperament.

Well, as anyone who's ever brought a new dog home knows, the first weeks are often challenging, as one deals with all the practicalities of training and so forth. For me, the housetraining was a big challenge -- like many puppies, Kip didn't get the whole toilet-training thing down right off, especially since she'd spent much of her life up to that point in a cage.

And this is where I come to my big point for this post. Having worked in an animal shelter, I've known too many people who give up their dogs because they didn't know what they were getting into, they didn't give the animals the time, love and dedication they need and deserve. I've said it so many times to so many people -- do your research thoroughly before ever bringing an animal home. A
dog can live 14, 15 years -- that's a LONG commitment. Be absolutely sure you can commit to that. Ask yourself what will happen to the dog if you guys move, go on holiday, go abroad to study, to work, get married, have kids. These life decisions must include your canine family member. Remember too, that as your pet ages, he or she will develop health issues that affect all elderly beings, and that will require a lot from you as well.

And for goodness' sakes, neuter your pet!

Again, 15 years is a long commitment -- many people don't even begin to grasp the concept of that when they first pick up a little puppy and fall for those big eyes and lovable face. Really think about whether you honestly have enough time for a dog. For example, you will need PLENTY of time to devote to proper training. If you don't, and the dog becomes a chronic house soiler, barker, furniture destroyer, aggressive biter, etc etc, will you become like those countless owners who get fed up, give up and dump their pet? Training, socialising, grooming, housebreaking and exercising all require a lot of time, dedication and PATIENCE. Because yes, there were weeks of dealing with Kip's inappropriate messes around the house (and her puppy teething) (and her adolescent acting out). But then -- one day -- YES! SHE GOT IT!

Some time back I was given a book called One at a Time -- A Week in an American Animal Shelter by Diane Leigh and Marilee Geyer. This book brought back so many memories and is so heartbreaking; I think every pet owner and potential pet owner should read it. It contains the true stories of animals in a shelter, and they are accompanied by very beautiful, tender photographic portraits.

The book publisher accurately describes it as "the stories of 75 animals who passed through a northern California shelter during one week. Their gripping stories include excerpts from actual shelter records; the words of shelter workers, volunteers, and visitors; and the final conclusion of each animal's journey through the shelter system.

"Look into the eyes of these animals and let their stories give you a riveting and unforgettable glimpse into this nation's homeless animal tragedy. Whether it is the lost dog quickly reunited with his family because he was wearing an ID tag, the frightened cat given up by guardians who didn't understand the commitment of caring for her, the cat facing euthanasia or the dog joyfully adopted into a new home, each animal in One at a Time has an important lesson to teach and a powerful message to share.

One at a Time will help you to see the real faces behind the numbers, and to experience the miracles and heartbreak that play out every day in our nation's shelters... one animal at a time.

Even more importantly, One at a Time will give you hope, because this tragedy can be ended and each one of us can be part of the solution... offering us the chance to become better people, to reawaken our connection with other living beings, and to reaffirm the sanctity of life itself. The animals of One at a Time will show you how."

This book reinforces so strongly the grave importance and long-term implications of neutering, avoiding breeding, properly ID'ing and socialising your pets. But above all, it makes clear how desperately important it is that you commit yourself to your pet for his or her entire lifetime, regardless what happens.

There is one picture of a shelter worker walking with a dog on a leash; it's taken from the back and the way the dog is trotting beside her, she looks like any other doggie happily going for a walk. Except this dog was being led to be euthanised. And the writer described it so well, capturing exactly what I used to feel:

"We have made dogs our most loyal friends, and they live that role, to the very end. And so they go willingly, with trust. They cooperate when the leash is hooked to their collar, and follow obediently on the last walk they will ever take. She didn't know what would happen to her, but she went. Willingly. With trust... a trust betrayed first by the family who lost her, and then again by a society who can do no better than offer this as their answer." Every time I catch even a glimpse of that picture, I feel so sad thinking back on what a common sight it was -- and still is -- every single day.

Please -- adopt, don't buy -- and give an abandoned pet a real chance at a full, happy life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

R & Miro

Someone wants a new doll.
(But Miro is still in the shop for now).

little red bus

Ann at little red bus did a super awesome feature on the shop. little red bus is a lovely, inspiring blog filled with beautiful finds for children. Thank you so much Ann!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

let your 'Yes' be 'Yes'

I've been reading America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, by Sarah Bradford. I'm about a quarter way through, and enjoying it very much; it's wonderfully well-written -- sharp, revealing, very entertaining. Last night I reached the point where JFK's father Joe highlights to his son that he must give up any thoughts of divorce if he's serious about running for the Presidency. "In the coming campaign," Bradford writes, "image would be all. 'It's not what you are, it's what people think you are,' as the Kennedy mantra ran" (p. 151).

It struck me as I read it that that's the mantra of a lot of people, not just the Kennedys -- the general human population perhaps. I wonder how many of the world's problems are caused by this focus on image, on externals, and not the real person, the inner man. It seems to me that in showing one side to the public, and another in private, deceit and hypocrisy are reinforced and encouraged; it's sad that we often can't tell if a person truly is caring, kind, trustworthy or noble (I'm not referring to people we're close to, of course -- presumably, hopefully, we know what they're
really like!).

This led me to think of Matthew 5:37: "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one".

It's funny/sad how people often say things they don't mean, commit to things they never intend to see through, are double-minded, unreliable and dishonest beneath a veneer of friendliness, benevolence or magnanimity.

Some time ago, I caught up with an acquaintance I hadn't spoken to in awhile. We exchanged news, back and forthing for awhile, and then she requested photographs of B and R for a weekly children's style project on which she was working. I duly made time to select and send her a variety of photos that she could use. Unexpectedly, she did not reply at all to this. So I wrote her after a bit, asking if she had received the pictures alright. Many days later, she wrote back with a torrent of compliments and thanks, asking me also to please let her know of clothing brands she could feature (I did).

She apologised that she hadn't replied because my email had somehow gotten into her Spam folder (this of course is the intriguing, oft-used excuse of those who actually can't be bothered to write back, yet are unwilling to honestly say so). She said she was going to use the pictures in "next week's" feature. I replied asking her to please let me know when she did.

Well, needless to say, she never did use them, nor did she ever write back. Now don't get me wrong -- I am certainly not upset about this at all -- but I'm occasionally reminded of it and I just wonder, huh? As in, WHY do people do this? Why say one thing when you mean another, why say you will when you won't, why put on (in this case) an "image" of sincerity and bubbly affability, when the reality is an insincere hollowness? And if one can be like this in even small, simple things, how does one deal with bigger issues, matters of importance that require unshakeable integrity, commitment or trustworthiness? It strikes me as I write this however that it really doesn't matter whether something is small or big -- we should mean what we say all the time, be honourable and dependable in all our dealings.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone was the same regardless of circumstances, or who they're dealing with? If people were frank, straightforward, and genuine -- weren't phony, superficial, or false? If you could take a person at face value, and at their word?


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