Bungee–as the shelter has named him–passed his temperament test and is approved for general adoption!
Which means anyone can adopt him, not just me! Which is great, because my boyfriend was unhappy at the idea of a third animal in our apartment (willing to put up with it to save a life, but unhappy). For the background on what happened, you can see my original post about the little guy: How I Got Bitten in the Face By a Dog (And it Was My Own Damn Fault).
I repeat, the pup was not at fault. Just scared.
If you know of anyone who’d like to adopt a cute little terrier, please send them to his profile.
Last week I got bitten by a stray dog I was trying to rescue. My neighbor (JG) had knocked on my door to ask for my help with this stray he and his wife (L) had coaxed into our shared driveway. I’ve fostered three dogs in the time I’ve lived at Tortuga, so I am the “stray-dog-expert” insofar as we have one. I am not a professional and I made a mistake.
Not terrifying looking at all, right? And not a vicious dog.
We’d managed to coax him closer to us with the use of slices of ham and sitting calmly on the ground so we weren’t a threat. He came close enough that L was able to pet him. He seemed to be calming down. And this is when I made my mistake. I tried to pick him up.
First I grabbed hold of his collar (he did have one, though no tags) and then I scooped my other arm under him. He started freaking out and struggling. Which I should have expected. But I didn’t.
I should have put him back on the ground and possibly tried to hold onto his collar. Or I should have let him go. But instead, I instinctively pulled him closer. This works great with wriggly toddlers. Not so much terrified terriers.
He started snapping at everything in reach. My hand, my arms, and, unfortunately, my lip. He didn’t even leave a scratch on my hands and arms, which is one of the reasons I don’t think he’s an inherently violent dog. That’s a dog trying to get away. Not trying to hurt. Not trying to latch on. But he managed to catch my lip.
Lips are fragile, in comparison to regular skin. He got me good. Note–he didn’t try to hold on. He could have hurt me a great deal more than he did. He’s a terrier. They’re made to kill things (yes, really, terriers are intended to kill rats and other rodents). But he let go.
Meanwhile, blood is pouring down my face.
L saw the blood and shrieked (this seems a perfectly normal reaction to me). JG, who had gone indoors, came running. I sent her off to get me a paper towel, told him where the key to my storage unit was and how to find my small dog crate. And I calmed the little guy down.
He actually did calm down while I held him and cooed at him.
We got him into the crate and then JG drove me to Urgent Care. Which is actually only two blocks away, but I figured I might get light headed if I walked.
Let me tell you, when you walk into Urgent Care with blood pouring down your face and neck, they respond right quick. They took down information and got me to a doctor. Ultimately (after a brief phone consultation with my Dad) the doctor sent me up to plastic surgery.
Normally, he said, they don’t do much other than cleaning mouth wounds. However, one of the cuts crossed the Vermillion border (there’s a name for that boundary between lip and regular skin!). That, he said, can be tricky. The injury only barely crossed it, so he said it was a toss up as to which to do. I called my Dad, who then talked with the doctor. I let my Dad decide. Because, at that point, I wanted to just sit and do nothing.
JG stayed with me and walked me over to plastic surgery. I deliberately had not washed the blood off myself because, again, people respond quickly when you’re covered in blood.
The plastic surgeon cooed over me, cleaned me up, and set to stitching. That hurt more than the bite.
Fast forward to Animal Control arriving. Because bite reports go to them. I was worried (and rightly so, though hopefully I can still work this out) that they’d want to put him down. The woman I spoke to was actually very helpful, explaining to me what would happen and why. She said they don’t normally adopt out dogs that bite (which I read as code for: we put them down).
So, I asked if I could adopt him.
I told her it was my fault. I told her why I didn’t think he was a vicious dog. I told her about fostering.
She was concerned that I already had a big dog who didn’t get along well with other dogs (she also knew exactly which houses on our block had dogs and how long they’d had them…). I noted that he’d done okay with the fosters and she got this considering look on her face and murmured. “Maybe he just reacts when the other dog acts like prey…” (I have found this to be true.)
She told me there was a chance they’d adopt him out to me. After all, I already knew he bit. She told me to tell them in writing that I wanted to adopt him. To just email them saying I wanted him and giving his ID#. (Here’s his profile from the shelter)
She put up handwritten signs around the neighborhood describing the dog, since the original owner could reclaim him easily. If they knew. If they wanted to. If, if, if.
I also put up posters with a picture of the little guy. A couple of the neighborhood kids helped with that one.
And now… we wait.
He’s in isolation now, so they can be sure he doesn’t have rabies. The clock on isolation runs out on 2/21. And isolation will only make him more skittish. And less adoptable.
So I’ve applied to adopt him via their web contact form. And I’ve sent a follow up email asking about him. I haven’t heard anything back, but he’s still listed on their found dogs page.
I look at that first picture and I just want to cuddle him and reassure him. I hope his original owner claims him. Or that they let me adopt him. I really, really hope they let me adopt him. He doesn’t deserve to be put down for my mistake (and no, I’m not beating myself up, just wishing I’d been smarter about it).
In future… I’ll call a shelter first. I hadn’t wanted to, because I didn’t want him to be at risk of being put down. But now he is, more so than if I’d called them first.
I will say that I found out other people in our neighborhood had seen him and even had him in their yard and done nothing about it. They let their kids pet him. But they didn’t try to do any of the things they should have. Hell, don’t let your kids pet a strange dog. They should have called Animal Control, instead of ignoring the problem. And that upsets me, too.
Ugh. I’m thinking of a lot of “what-ifs,” even though I know it won’t help.
How, in a house of my brethren can there be so few pens? And then maybe, I think, they aren’t my brethren in that way. In the pen and the paper and the ink and the ideas swirling away into bits of paper.
Maybe they’re my brethren simply by blood. Which isn’t simple, is it? Never is. Brethren by blood or by choice. Considering epigenetics, in this case the two are inseparable. But that’s considering epigenetics, and I am far too looped out on Ambien to do so coherently at the moment.
Or don’t. I rarely do.
Consider Ragnar taking up a quarter of his bed, watching me whenever I move in case I leave while he wasn’t looking. He won’t even eat his breakfast anymore, he’s too busy watching to make sure I don’t duck out while he’s eating.
I owe him something. An environment where he can relax. Where I am less stressed. Where it’s okay to not always be on the run, always getting things done by the skin of my teeth. Always on the verge of collapse because, in addition to my personal goals, I want to give those around me whatever it is they want from me. That last one…. that needs a full on revamping.
With J, I could not be the out doorsy, studiously productive cynical girl he needed. I tried. I managed cynical. Instead of studious I did obsessive; he didn’t like me when I was obsessive.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love him a great deal, and probably will for a long time. And I still miss him something fierce. But I’m much happier on a day to day basis, able to recall the fun we had, how madly & quickly we fell for each other, how so many things about us just *fit*.
But if you’re trying to be what the other person wants… and you don’t even know who you are… sigh… The person he wanted, she’s a good person. Someone I’d have fun with, someone I’d admire. But not me. I’m not interested in scuba diving, or getting drunk, or week long camping trips.
I owe Ragnar, and I owe myself, a home. A safe space in which only our interactions matter. And the cats. A home, together, the three of us. I owe us all a home without constant judgment and criticism. Without a constant looming disapproval. Without the sense that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet. A home that is ours. It will be my home by all outward measures. But ours. No one else gets to complain when Kayla projectile vomits off the top of the bookcase. No one else gets to point out how many knots are in Marx’s fur, but then refuse to help shave them out. No one else gets to look down on Ragnar — on *my* dog — and complain about his behavior.
Because, for fuck’s sake, he’s a dog. He gets paw prints on things. He sometimes smells funny. He eats things you don’t even want to think about. He wants to sniff your butt, and your butt, and everybody’s butts. But. His home. Where he will not be punished for being a dog. He will be trained and disciplined, and the fact that he waits for permission before getting on the bed will be acknowledged. And that he rings bells when he wants to go outside will be admired for the awesomeness it is.
He will be appreciated in his own home.
I would like to be appreciated in my own home.
I would like my own home, and I haven’t had any space I could truly call mine since college. For a while, I thought I had that at Tortuga. But, no. Shoes dropped. Judgments got made. Suddenly, it wasn’t a safe space to come home to. It was a place to walk on eggshells and then attempt to read tea leaves to figure out whatever the fuck was going on.
And so. I want a home of my own. And it’s looking like I’ll have one, soon.
Pending signing the lease and handing over the deposit, my family and I will be moving into a three bedroom house in the east bay. One with a ginormous backyard where Ragnar can bound and leap. And there will be cat shelves. Oh, yes. I will put up cat shelves in every room so the cats can circumnavigate the house without ever once having to be on the ground with Ragnar unless they want to.
I will have a home.
Oh. And my home will be entirely gluten free. No gluten shall enter. Ever. So I will never have to fear contamination and illness in my own home.
All of which is a rambly and emotional way of saying I may have a place for the menagerie and me within the next week or so.
Cubby Selby used to say that the reason cliches exist is because they’re often true. I think, maybe, we’ve learned that cliche = turn your brain off.
They say before you can love anyone else, you first need to love yourself. Which has always struck me as ridiculous. You can love someone else with a desperate ferocity without ever loving yourself: witness my mother’s absolute dedication to both my brother and me. She never, in her entire life, loved herself. I think she’s learning to, now. I think the cancer made her examine herself and what she wants more closely. If not love herself, I think she’s beginning to at least value herself.
I don’t think my father has ever really loved himself, either. But he loves my mother, my brother, me, Uncle Stan, the dogs. It’s a small group, but he would do almost anything for any one of us. I don’t know if he’s learning to love himself or not. It’s a bit harder to tell. But I think he’s learning to accept himself. He apologized to me for the way he treated me during my childhood. Completely on his own, he apologized to me.
To be able to look back and see that about himself, and then not only realize he wronged me, but to actually make the apology unprompted… That’s pretty amazing.
It’s no secret to those who love me that I’m not particularly fond of myself. Remember that sketch I posted of myself at seven? I picked that particular picture to draw because of how much hatred I felt towards that little girl.
Tonight, walking Ragnar, I was listening to the audio version of Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (which is a pretty damned awesome book). Something Alda said at the end about knowing your own values struck me. I wish I knew what it was in particular that made it hit home. I’ve certainly heard plenty of variations of essentially the same advice. But something did strike me.
I tried to figure out what I valued. Family? Partnership? Dogs? Writing? Which did I spend the most time doing? Well, I spend the most time worrying about things and trying to come up with absolutely perfect solutions (yay OCD!). I don’t want that to be my value. But I was really startled that I didn’t know the hierarchy of the things I valued. And then it occurred to me, well, I don’t much value myself so why would I have even cared what things mattered to me? Of course I didn’t know. Because it didn’t matter.
No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. But that I’ve felt that way. And then that line of thought went even further. Each of those potential values I listed is a partnership: my parents, my boyfriend, my dog, my (possibly entirely imaginary) audience. In each case, I only value half of the equation. So why would I even care what happened to the other half–in this case–me?
The answer is I don’t. Or I didn’t. Gah. All this self actualization language is so imprecise… can I tell you how much I hate using lifecoach-y sounding terms? I hate it. Possibly as much as Gollum hated Samwise. Or maybe it was as much as Samwise hated Gollum…
Imagine you’re making a meal for two people. One, you care deeply about. The other, you don’t. In fact, the other you may even actively dislike. But you put up with that other because, after all, if they hadn’t shown up there wouldn’t be this dinner. Person A happens to love kale, and brownies, and pasta. Person B likes pasta, but isn’t so much into the dark leafy greens and doesn’t like chocolate (blasphemy!). So what do you make? Pasta, kale, brownies. Hey, Person A gets everything they want while Person B at least gets one thing they like!
(BTW, you’re Person B.)
Aside from this making you a bad host… the math is wrong. Person A isn’t getting what they want at all. Person A is here for dinner with Person B. How can Person A be happy if their friend is getting shortchanged?
Now let’s take away the theoretical dinner and go back to those values. If I value my family but I don’t value myself and take care of myself–my family won’t be happy. Same with my partner, or my dog (I would treat myself like shit, which would affect all of them), or my possibly imaginary audience (which, you know, might not be imaginary if I valued myself and therefore dedicated more time and focus to my writing. And, uhm, sent editors stories when they asked me for them…).
Both sides of the equation need to be considered. A + B isn’t equal to A. It’s impossible to have a relationship with someone who isn’t there, or is intermittently there. And it is impossible, as that person who self negates, to build anything lasting and healthy.
You can love someone else while not loving yourself, but you’re not going to do a very good job at it.
Back at the end of March I predicted that it would take me six months of steady campaigning to convince Jason we should adopt a dog. In truth, it only took five months. We adopted Arthur/Ragnar at the end of August. He’s part mastiff, possibly part boxer or lab, and at the moment he’s snoring, crashed out on the floor by my feet.
He’s a smart pup, though a bit skittish. We’re working on that and seeing major improvements.
You know what the trick was? To convincing Jason? Finding a big enough dog. Which makes sense when you consider that the only dog he has ever liked is a friend’s Great Dane.
Meet Ragnar, named in honor of a Norse pirate-king:
In case you were wondering, he’s at most 10 months old and weighs 75lbs. We’re hoping he’ll at least top 100lbs by the time he’s full grown.
I never told you about Bruno, did I? Bruno was our second foster dog from Copper’s Dream. Look at him. How could anyone not love that face?
When he came to us, he was terrified. Cowering when you tried to pet him.
He mostly ignored the cats. Began to relax after a few days. If you crouched down to face level with him, he’d let you pet him without wincing.
Then, one morning, he made a play bow at Tabby: the only one of our cats who actively dislikes dogs. She began to trot, and then to run to get away from him. He thought she was playing chase, so he ran after her. Poor Tabby was cornered and terrified (and lost control of certain bodily functions).
Jason and I yelled, without even thinking. We ran into the dining room (where Tabby was cornered) and separated the two. Bruno very clearly was confused. He just wanted to play and had no intention of hurting her.
We put him outside while we cleaned up after Tabby, and he whimpered. He cried. He pawed at the door, desperately trying to get back inside. For the rest of the day he was back to being that terrified dog who cowered when we came near. We thought it was because of the yelling. But it wasn’t. It was because we had left him alone outside.
He probably was locked outside a lot before we got him. And hit or kicked if he tried to get into the house. Poor guy was terrified of door ways…
He just shut down.
Luckily, I knew someone who had a magic touch with dogs. She came over, had a toy Bruno actually liked and treats he would actually eat. She figured out he had issues around food. His prior owner had probably taken his food or hit him when he was at his food bowl. So we gave him his food and went into the other room, and once he realized we didn’t want it, he ate.
She and I spent the next three or four hours sitting on the floor of my kitchen with Bruno. We just pet him. His body relaxed. He made that whuffling exhalation dogs make when they’re happy. And he got happy dog face, you know, the expression where their mouths are wide open and their lips are relaxed and they look almost like they’re grinning? That.
I’d been so careful not to invade his space, not wanting him to feel threatened, which had been completely counter-productive. He needed contact.
After that, he was a completely different dog. He was happy and playful. It was so amazing to watch him bound after a toy and pounce. Utterly amazing.
By the time the adoption fair rolled around, he was willing to be around a crowd of people. He’d been terrified of that on walks with me around the neighborhood. But he was great.
A man who reminded me a lot of my dad fell in love with Bruno. I told him about the history of abuse. Told him about Bruno’s health issues (Bruno limped and had something wrong with his hip, and we didn’t know how serious it was). And the family just said, Well, then we know we’re getting a disabled dog and that’s okay.
He got along with their other dog. He licked their son’s face. He walked on leash with the father and trotted happily after their dog. And they loved him.
So now, he lives with a family in Cupertino, with another dog he gets along with. She’s not so interested in playing with him, but he keeps trying. And the family adores him. Turns out his hip problem was from a fracture from when he was a puppy, probably a result of being kicked.
This — this is why fostering is wonderful. Because you can take an abused and frightened dog and make him feel safe again. And you can find him a family that adores him.
She’s absofrickinlutely adorable. And incredibly well behaved. Nine months old; we think she’s some mix of Chow and German Shepherd. Poor girl had ear infections and an allergic rash when she came to us, both of which are doing much better now.
We’ve had her all of five days, and tomorrow we’ll be sending her off with a very nice college student who adopted her. We’ll also be picking up another dog to foster. Who, hopefully, will get along as well with our cats as Addie does (which is to say, she wants to play with them but not hunt them, and they completely ignore her).
So far, absolutely worthwhile. Yes, it will be sad to let her go. But she’s going to someone who adores her. It will probably be harder for us in future, when we’ve fostered a dog for longer than five days.