Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving Thanks for Shelter Pets

Today, on almost the last day of November, I am participating in the Shelter Pet Project and giving thanks for all of the animals that have come into our lives.  I have always said I wanted to have 500 cats and dogs, not ever fully realizing how many pets I'd have to own at the same time in order to accomplish that goal.  Fostering helps me to reach that goal, for sure. 

Without shelters, my family and I would have been deprived of this:

Sleepy Hound Brigade

And we certainly never would have known the joy of this:

A cloud of cats, all of whom have found homes

And my daughter would have never gotten to experience a love like this:

A dog and his girl

I wouldn't know some of the incredible people I have had the privilege to meet and there would be a lot fewer people who have found their forever pet.  As many car magnets and bumper stickers say "Who saved who?"  So, to all the shelter pets I have known:  Thank you for coming into my life, thank you for bringing me new people to meet and thank you for the love and companionship you've given me through the years.  For every 10 pounds of poop, we get 30 lbs in blessings and that's not something we could ever put a price on.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh the humanity!

This week, in celebration of Mickey Mouse's 83rd birthday, KIC's class is having spirit week.  So far, with the exception of one day, it has been "see how many gray hairs we can give mommy" week. 

Courtesy of SEVERAL reminders home, we are acutely aware that Monday is pajama day.  We spend all weekend preparing KIC for pajama day as this is against the norm and we don't want her to think she's breaking rules when we send her in wearing her pajamas.  All went well and we were able to swap one pair of pajamas for another pair very easily.  I arrive at school confidently singing "We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit how 'bout you??"  We are totally gonna rock this spirit week!  So my heart sinks when none of the other kids in the morning classroom are wearing pajamas.  My first thought is somehow I have screwed this up and I immediately start calculating how much time it will take me to get home and get a set of real clothes.  Voice fraught with concern I ask "Wasn't today supposed to be pajama day???" to which the response was "Yes, but the other kids didn't participate."  Well, as it happens, the other kids DID participate, they just hadn't arrived yet.  Most of the kids in the room were one level up and apparently, they weren't down with spirit week.  To which I repeat "We've got spirit, yes we do, we've go spirit, how bout YOU?"

It's Hat Day.  We've got many hats we can choose from, but this is SPIRT week.  We must OWN this.  KIC picks out a ginormous pink cowboy hat, complete with pink tiara on the front.  We coordinate KIC's outfit, as well as mommy's outfit accordingly.  Many compliments throughout the school regarding the pretty hat.  Minor scuffle between KIC and Mommy as to who should wear the hat (what??  Can't you see me wearing a pink cowboy hat with ugly rhinestone crown on the front?  I like to be pretty too!) which Mommy ultimately loses.  Again, we have OWNED this spirit day, thank you very much!

Not gonna lie, I knew Wednesday would be tough.  Like rilly rilly tough.  It was Crazy Hair day.  If you've seen recent pics of KIC, you know that we didn't have much to work with in terms of teasing and spraying and ponytails to the side.  I got the BRILLIANT (yes, I AM patting myself on the back, thank you very much) idea to spray paint KICs hair.  I hyped it up for daaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyysssssssssssssss, since it was new and potentially scary.  Even did a test run.  Come Wednesday morning, KIC was having NONE of it.  Meltdown city for a good 45 minutes.  I, however, was not budging "We've got spirit, yes we do!  We've got spirit how 'bout YOU??"  KIC's emotions with me ranged from, everybody's going to be mad at me, to (post school) nobody liked her hair.  After a lengthy chat with Miss PJ, not only did everybody love her hair, but SHE loved her hair!  However, when Daddy picked her up, she INSISTED she had to have a bath rightthatverysecond to wash it all out.  "Gonna wash that pink right outta my hair!"  (We won't tell her that it didn't actually wash out since blond hair takes color like fleas take to a dog in the summer).

Note the VERY gumpy face.

'Round about 9:00 pm, we realized we didn't have a jersey for sports day.  We could have worn the Mickey Nationals shirt, but Mickey day is tomorrow, so technically, we're saving it up.  Daddy, being the wonderful sport he is, went out and searched high and low for a jersey that would fit.  He finally found a Redskins jersey she could wear.  KIC wakes up this morning, takes one look and says "Nah."  Welllllllllllll, alrighty then.  In desperation, I suggest the soccer shirt.  She embraces it before I leave.  However, when it came time to actually get dressed, it was a big fat no go.  "We've got spirit...no??  We don't have spirit??  Well, shoot."

Here's hoping Friday will be better.  I mean, with a Mickey shirt, personalized Mickey ears and a Mickey doll, how could we go wrong (she says, extremely hopefully)??

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Ballad of a Rescue Dog

It's no secret that much of my life centers around rescue dogs.  I haven't been as active with attending events or evangelizing as much as I used to, but with five rescue dogs in the house, I can be absent from the rescue group, but the rescue group is never far from me.  I love every single one of them for different reasons, though I will be happy when a certain gruesome twosome find their forever homes...for many reasons.

Rescue is HARD work.  You are pulling an animal from the unhappy and guiding them towards the unknown.  Often, the animal has only known the depths of despair, has an intense distrust of humans or whose spirit is so broken it's all you can do not to sit on the floor sobbing.  One of my current fosters, Chief (Havoc for those who may know the code) is all three of those things locked into a neat little package. 
And by neat, I mean not at all.  Here is his story.

In a sort of bizarre "small world" symbiosis, someone I have known for many years was alerted to several dogs in various stages of malnutrition and neglect.  She immediately reported the story to local authorities who investigated and found 46 hounds in rough rough shape.

If that image turns your stomach, and it should, then you should know there was more than meets the eye with this case.  Ultimately, the owner was a convicted felon who also had a weapon.  He agreed to plead guilty to the weapons charge so that the dogs would be relinquished and available for rehoming immediately.  Generally, it takes months to years to take animal cruelty cases to trial (see Michael Vick), so the animals languish in shelters until the case is brought to trial.

Chief was one of those dogs.  He was all of 8 months when he was rescued, so he hadn't witnessed as much of the atrocity as some of the others had.  I can't provide you statistics on how many were rehabilitated and adopted out, but I can tell you that when I got Chief and two other dogs two months later, they were still thin.  Chief, and the two females, were adopted out rather quickly.  Each owner knew the story and resolved to give their respective dog the lives they deserved.  Through a series of unfortunate incidents, Chief was returned to the rescue.  That was a year ago and we still have him. 

Contentious relationship with neighbors aside, we also get the benefit of some interesting behaviors/interactions with Chief that in many ways are a direct result of where he came from. 
  • Food Hoarding:  Chief is fed like clockwork, twice a day.  He's also given treats a couple of times a day.  This does not matter to Chief.  In his mind, he doesn't know where his next meal is coming from.  If he is fed in his crate, he deliberately, tips his bowl over and hides his food.  Every so often, I am forced to clean the food out of his crate.  When this occurs, it sends him into a tailspin.  If, when I sweep, food is collected, he will obsessively hunt down the food in what's been swept up and eat it, as I sweep it.  If there is food on a counter, he will pace and whine until the food is put away.  This is the case if it's human food or dog food, but especially dog food.  Simply put, his brain can't accept that he WILL be fed again, so it's critical to his survival that he make provisions for himself.
  • Anxiety:  Chief's anxious behavior manifests itself in many interesting ways.  If any member of the dog pack is separated from the rest, Chief goes into a tailspin.  He doesn't know what it means, but he knows that the dynamics have changed and he cannot adjust.  In his former life, when a pack member was separated, it meant unspeakable things, so that could be why that makes him anxious.  Many nights, without provocation, he'll start pacing and whining.  No amount of stimulation or redirection will get him to stop.  He once had an anxiety/panic attack so intense (as a result of introducing two strangers to the house), it lasted for two and a half hours.  If a person had a panic attack that lasted for two hours, they would be hospitalized. 
  • Medications:   Chief is on medications for his thyroid and to help him maintain an even keel.  The only dog in the house who is on more medications is our diabetic dog who gets insulin twice a day and assistance with her arthritis.  His anti-anxiety medication is a ramp up medication that requires additional bloodwork to ensure none of his liver functions are being affected.  Think being uninsured is expensive for humans?  It's just as expensive for dogs and he'll be on these meds, and require blood tests, for the rest of his life. 
  • Temperament:  Chief's anxiety prevents him from ever being restful or really truly happy.  If he's not pacing and whining, then he's goading one of the other dogs to play with him.  While it's true that he could be bored, he also doesn't know when to stop pestering, which gets him into trouble with the other dogs.  He's received physical correction from the other dogs after several hours of pestering, and he does not stop.  He seems to have no off switch.  He loves his humans, but has a hard time accepting the change that outsiders bring.  It wouldn't be a stretch to say that he simply cannot accept the change outsiders bring.
Chief is the first dog that has brought me challenges that I did not feel I could overcome.  For Chief, neither time, nor love, nor money, nor patience, nor medication (at this point) can bring him to a restful state.  Yet, despite all this, and maybe because of his origin, I can't help but feel that he's worth it.  That he's worth being redeemed.  Is the perfect owner out there for Chief?  Maybe.  Will he be with us for a long time?  Most assuredly.  But having him around has made me appreciate my faults, my weakness and see my failures as learning experiences.  And for that, I wouldn't trade my experience with him for anything in the world...except maybe a permanent home where he can be happy, once and for all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm Grateful for My...Husband

If you're like me, you may be shocked that it's November!  Since we're a full seven days into November, I'm going to go ahead and own the fact that I'm a touch behind the times.  Whatever, I'm still coming out of my Halloween sugar coma.

After my melancholy post last time, and in the spirit of the month that is host to giving thanks, I have decided to focus on giving thanks for all of my November posts.  Many bloggers and people on Facebook are posting something they are grateful for on a daily basis.  I am secure enough in my disorganization to tell you that ain't happening here.  I do plan on listing 30 things I'm grateful for, but with a theme.  Just roll with it, you'll see what I mean.

For my first installment, I will list seven things I appreciate/am grateful for as it relates to my husband.  These are not in order of importance, but more in order that my brain spit them out.
  1. He is a very tolerant, patient man.  Not many men would put up with the Shoup Zoo, and while he isn't exactly in search of what/who else we can add to the menagerie, his support of the animals and patience when a new one enters our lives is unparalleled. 
  2. He is extremely hardworking.  Not only does he work 40 hour weeks, but he is working on his degree AND he takes care of KIC on the evenings I come home late.  Everyone he has ever worked with makes a point of telling me how great he is at what he does, how team oriented he is and how much they enjoy his company. 
  3. He's dedicated to his family.  KIC has him wrapped around her finger and she knows it.  Nothing is too good or too outrageous for her, though.  If I suggest signing her up for soccer or dance or gymnastics, he's there for every session he can attend.  He's her biggest cheerleader on the sidelines and the first to pick up the water bottle when it's time for refreshments.  With all of my hair brained schemes (participating in not one, not two but THREE Avon Walks all over the country), he not only supports me, but he willingly participates as well, by showing his support along the route. 
  4. He doesn't mind that I compare him to Forest Gump all.the.time.  Man likes to run.  How I married a runner is beyond me.  I make no secret of the fact that I hate running.  When he runs, he's not running for time, he's not running for a personal best, he's running because he enjoys it.  As such, I compare him to Forest Gump who ran just to run.  A lesser man would throttle me, but Brent just tells me "Life is like a box of chocolates" and smiles his dopamine high smile at me, the lesser mortal.  Seriously, if running-ness was remotely close to godliness, Brent has run his way to the pearly gates and back again, several times over.
  5. He's got a wicked sense of humor.  My family prizes humor above most things.  Even if you're missing most of your teeth, if you've got a decent sense of comedic timing, we luv ya!  My husband has dropped some zingers on us during large family gatherings that have had us all in stitches.  We still laugh about some to this day.  I'd share them with you, but you kinda had to be there.
  6. Like a good neighbor, Brent Shoup is there.  The man has boundless energy.  Seriously, he can't sit still for more than 5 minutes without thinking of something he MUST be doing RIGHT this very second.  (Ironically, none of those things are "honey do" list related.  NOW I know why he's always too busy!)   If he's outside and he sees anyone that needs help for any reason, he always takes time to stop and help them.  I know it's like a commandment or something to be a good neighbor, but he genuinely likes to help people.  In a day and age of "me me me", watching him help neighbors shovel sidewalks is always heartwarming.
  7. He's my rock.  At the end of the day, no matter what I rage about, no matter how dog tired we both are, no matter how low or how high (metaphorically, people!!), knowing that he's there is a comfort to me.  This year has tested us in ways we've never experienced before and we're finding out a lot about who we are as people, and as a family, but no matter what, I know that he'll always be rock solid.  He's a pretty cool guy that way.
Well, that's one pledge of gratitude for each day of the month so far.  Wonder what I'll come up with for my next list.  In the meantime, please, no matter what is going on right now, try to find one thing you appreciate about the people close to you.  You may surprise yourself with what you find.  #end soapbox