Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nyxie! Part II - The Pickup

While sitting down to write the 2nd installment of Nyxie's coming home story, I realized that I had alot to share.  It was a busy, emotional time for our family and one that brings back a ton of memories.  So I'm breaking up the story into a few more manageable parts.  This post is really about her Gotcha Day (March 24, 2007), but I couldn't wait that long to start Part II.  It's a bit different from my normal blog, but I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless.  Maybe I have the makings of something else entirely here....please let me know what you think  

As you can probably imagine, I was a mess for the rest of that night.  All I could think about was that sweet little puppy and the mischief and joy she'd bring with her.  Would the girls get along with her?  Arwen had never liked any other dogs so we were sure our integration challenge would start with her.  What if we couldn't transition Arwen and Raven over to raw food?  Would the sleeping arrangements work?  Would she potty train easily?  I wanted to get it all right - without any mistakes.  I wanted to be the Victoria Stilwell / Cesar Millan dog-mom of my dreams.  I thought of the puppy breath, the soft ears, the floppy paws and knobby knees.  I was filled with hope and anticipation for the privilege of raising this new, tiny life.

Needless to say, I couldn't play World of Warcraft very effectively and ended up showing everybody Nyxie's  litter pics from the Timber Ridge website.  My friend Sandy, and the only other dog fanatic in the room, confessed that she and her husband, Roland might be adding a new Golden into their pack.  Sandy is one of those wonderful caretakers that truly adores her 2 Goldens, Hannah and Hailey like children.  And soon after, Parker, was welcomed home.

Through all this, Matt tried to tease me about the new puppy, presenting a manly facade to the other guys.  Secretly, though, I knew better.  Finding this perfect pup was a dream come true.  And a chance to start healing some old wounds of loss - both past and future.  He announced that we had to leave early as we had an early start the next day and we said our goodbyes.

On the drive home, we were almost giddy despite the falling sleet.  We talked about training, and introductions, and of hope.  I must've said, "I can't wait until tomorrow" about a hundred times.  And when we got home, I was like a child trying to sleep on Christmas Eve, my heart was pounding.  I tossed and turned.  

The next morning was met with cleaning and puppy-proofing.  We planned our introduction to happen in the spare bedroom, T's bedroom when she would visit us.  It was a neutral place as we rarely let the dogs in there even when she was home.  Time passed sloooooowly.....

It was finally time to pick up our new family member.  We drove to Saco, a town about 20 minutes south of us.  I could scarcely sit still.  As we'd been to the main house previously, we were allowed entry by her pack of gorgeous shepherds.  We rang the bell and Doreen brought out the tiny black pup, wide eyed and curious.  She'd made good on her promise to bathe her, to wash away the brown earth from her fur.  She was shiny, silky and the deepest black of sparkling onyx.  Her brown almond eyes looked questioningly at us as Doreen handed her over.  She sniffed us thoroughly - we smelled nothing like the rich earth, stables and the hay, the smells of Maine.  We smelled of different dogs, of the city and of coffee.

The Matt with then long hair and tiny Nyxie.  Day 1

I can't remember who held her first that day, but I suspect Matt let me hold her, as we'd decided she would ride in his lap while I drove home.  We have this theory that whoever rides home holding the new pup or kitten becomes the tiny creature's favorite.  At least that's what we'd experienced with rescue in the past.  Doreen gave us a wonderful book called Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, The Ultimate Diet  by Kymythy R. Schultze, the pup's AKC paperwork and informational folder, and a large tupperware container full of raw chicken necks.  She also explained to us that our new pup could be returned to her at any point in her life if the need arose.  Her pups were always welcomed home.  What a wonderful testament to the faith she has in her dogs!

And with that, Genie Z Timber Ridge, with ear tattoo # 7TR05, became the newest member of Arwen's Pack.

Part III, The Homecoming to be continued...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nyxie! January 20

Four years ago from yesterday, a black dog named Kelly labored with the strain of delivering a litter of German Shepherd puppies.  She licked them clean, one by one.  She sheltered their little bodies from the frigid Maine winter.  A new year brought with it bright new lives.  They were born under the supervision of a wonderful breeder in Saco, Maine.  Doreen is the owner of Tiber Ridge Farm, a German Shepherd breeder and dog and horse boarder.  Of course, we knew nothing of these events or of Doreen until 9 weeks later.

Matt and I were searching for many months for just the right breeder and dog combination.  Having done German Shepherd rescue in the past and having experienced terrible loss as a result, it had been a long time before we would even consider bringing a new shepherd into our lives.  We were finally ready when we got Raven's cytology results back as positive for lymphoma.  We sadly accepted that her life would be cut short, even while undergoing chemotherapy with the wonderful vets and nurses at Portland Veterinary Specialists.  We could not have asked for a more compassionate medical team.

As the painful realization of losing a pup settled in, it dawned on us that Arwen would be alone.  Her solitude is unbearable.  She has separation anxiety for being alone.  The humans are fine to go, but she can't be alone for long.  Without another dog with her, Arwen quickly begins to drool, pant, and make desperate attempts to get our of her crate, even to the point of self-injury.  What a testament to the importance of "pack".  Our search for another dog intensified.

There's a publication in Maine called the Uncle Henry's.  Imagine Craigslist for a sparsely populated, wild state.  You never know what you'll find when you look through the Uncle Henry's.  I combed the "pets" section, hoping we'd find a puppy that would be a good fit.  Matt sought an all black shepherd rather than a black and tan, so the search was not easy.  With a small child in the house, Matt worried about the predictability of a shelter dog.  I yielded in this argument, as T is his child biologically - Daddy's decision trumped my open-mindedness.

One day, I opened the Uncle Henry's and started my usual search.  There, in black and white, was this ad:

We called and made an appointment to visit.  Just to look.

It was a wet March afternoon when we made the drive "to look" at the puppies at Timber Ridge Farm.  We vowed to wait no matter who or what was there, making plans for later in the evening. We were headed to a LAN party (where a bunch of geeksters load up their computers and converge on a fellow-geekster's home to play World of Warcraft and drink beer for the night).  With computers in tow, no way could we bring a puppy home.  No how, no way.

We exited the Maine Turnpike and followed the directions through residential and increasingly more rural property until we turned down a winding road that eventually became a gravel road.  Crossing a rickety bridge over a frozen creek, we wondered if we'd gone too far.  The land opened up and large farms rolled to our right, leafless forest to our left.  Then we saw the sign and turned down the long driveway.  Our hearts were in our throats.  

We met Doreen at the horse stalls and indoor riding arena, where we were instructed to go first.  Large, sturdy Czech German Shepherds, panting from playing in the mud, accompanied the truck as we pulled in.  The dogs were wary but confident, watching our movements and circling to gather the new scents.  Doreen met us and we talked for a few minutes.  Then is was the moment of truth.  We were told we could drive up to the main house, now that we had met her where the dogs were used to boarders coming in and going, they would allow us to approach the house with more ease.  As soon as we got to the house, the dogs seemed more alert, more guarded.  One of her beautiful males started bringing Matt his toy to throw, as Doreen brought out the pups.  

Sleepy eyed and awkward, two black pups emerged to greet us.  An outgoing, energetic fireball wearing a collar, and a doe-eyed, sleepy naked pup.  The first had been claimed and bought earlier, but was boarding with her former mama and sister.  She was all over us immediately.  A climbing, sniffing, chewing ball of energy.  I was secretly glad she wasn't available.  Her energy was just too much for our family.  The other pup was all about Doreen's lap.  She handed her over to us and the little pup curled up, clearly exhausted.  She was sleepy and grumpy, taking bitey shots at her sister at each frenetic lap pass while she lay curled on a lap.  They'd been playing all day and the little pup was done, spent, pooped.  At least until her sister started digging in the mud.  At this, the little pup hopped down and laid in the hole - digging and biting at her sister to keep her away from the prized brown mud.  

We were in love.  Doreen's perspective on her dogs fit ours.  We were looking for a healthy, sound dog with intelligence, a protective and loyal spirit, and the drive to work as she was bred to do.  She was also a raw feeder, something that I had been interested in trying.  The cards were stacked, and we wrote the deposit check.  We would pick her up the following day. 

Part II to be continued... 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Shameless advertising alert...

I almost forgot to mention that I have some fun new goodies my Etsy shop, ForPetsSake.  Eventually I'd like to make some dog-lover stuff, but I'm using the materials I have available for now.  I hope some of you like these.

And what's the best part of crafting?  Getting to curl up with the girls dogs on a rainy day in front of the fireplace and dropping out of the everyday grind for a few hours!

Monday, January 17, 2011


This past June, when T went to visit her grandparents for a part of the summer, I decided to take the opportunity to get back in the gym and really improve my overall health.  Before she left, I was feeling sorry for myself, overloaded with the responsibilities of being a parent to a preteen, and never seeming to have enough time to do the things I wanted.  The dogs and I would walk regularly, but with 2 very active, well-muscled and athletic dogs, I was forever lagging behind.  As good as my girls are, they would simply revel in the joy that is the walk, never really bothered by that lumbering human at the other end of the leash.  Although I'm sure I got the equivalent of doggie "eye rolls" a time or two.  

This past summer was a turning point for me. I started hitting the gym 4 to 5 times a week, generally after work.  Almost immediately, I noticed the change in my attitude and overall mood.  My energy levels increased, and paired with this positive new outlook, I faced the challenges that came at me with a new found passion.  Walking the dogs took on a faster pace, and the girls, in turn, were even more joyful.  I started slowly working my way up to strengthen the 'ol cardiac muscle.  As time wore on, I could increase my resistance and the time I spent on each machine.  I've recently moved from stationary weight lifting to lifting free weights.  The gym is divided into stationary weights and cardio machines on the upstairs floor and the heavy lifting "Big Boy" area downstairs.  I feel like one of the "Big Boys" now, even sporting lifting gloves like the more advanced weight-lifters.  I was definitely intimidated to go downstairs, but finally got the nerve up with some friends.  I'm loving every minute of it!  Each time I meet my lifting goals, (paired with the physical inability to put the keys in the ignition to go home) I know I'm getting stronger and more fit!    

Aside from being tired of being a lumpy pile of inert goo, I was inspired by Arwen and Nyxie.  Their muscular bodies are in a constant state of readiness. What really blows my mind, is that dogs don't need to "work out" to be strong and sinewy.  Their enthusiasm for a simple act like hopping onto the couch is unmatched.  They're the very definition of grace and power, all wrapped in soft, fluffy fur.  I've seen the girls hop over one another from a parallel standing position.  Do you have any idea what it would take for us to be able to do that to another human?!  There's just no comparison.  We are outmatched.  At least we have our thumbs.


Monday, January 10, 2011


I spent this morning catching up with all my bloggie friends, but ran out of time to write anything beyond a few words.  I have a new snazzy phone with a better camera for Christmas - let's see how we did.

We had a bit of snow here in the Dallas area.  It was fleeting and thick, but didn't stick to anything but the grass and some trees.  Nyxie and T sure loved it.  On the days leading up to the snow, we had some crazy warm days with lots of sun.
Is this snow?

Nope- just a good brushing of Arwen's coat.  She's leaving bits of herself all over Texas!
Nyxie looks shocked that sissy is blowing away!
"Don't worry, Nyx, she'll make more..."
This was that evening, before the cold and snows came...
What a difference a few hours makes!  It fell thick and wet, but didn't linger.  We'll be cold like this for a week or so, they say.
"We'll be by the fire if you need us...kthnxbai"

Sunday, January 9, 2011


New goodies in the shop - fun dollies!  Hopefully I will not offend with these.  I was inspired to make these while living in and visiting New Orleans.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to save, clean, bleach and prepare chicken and turkey bones?!  Hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


There are some unpleasant things I'm dealing with at present and rather than dump them here in my little slice of peace, I'm going to look at the bigger picture and reaffirm my beliefs.

Character defines us.  Good, bad or indifferent, we are what we do daily.  We are also how we do those things.  We're shaped by the good and bad decisions of each day.  If too many decisions scoot around our ethics and principles, we'll become unethical and unprincipled.  If we act in a slovenly, careless, or selfish way, we'll become those ugly things.  And each time a bad decision, or a shallow choice is made, and we're rewarded, we reinforce those behaviors all the more.

The central question then, is "Does character matter?"

Why put forth all that effort in the first place?  Why not just get what you want from people and situations regardless of what is right and just?   And when there are repercussions for these actions, do you admit responsibility for your choices, or do you blame others?   And what about "ethics" - what role do they play?

People argue that non-human animals have no ethics, no rules of conduct.  I laugh at this argument.  We are the champions at rationalizing around our own principles if there's a benefit to be had.  A dog will eat its own poop before keeping a soiled den.  A dog will jump headlong into danger to benefit the pack.  I just read a story about a dog that had been hit by a car, was suffering from several leg fractures, and was caring for and feeding a full litter, which included a stray kitten!  Talk about a sense of responsibility!  (They've since been rescued and are doing well).  I've known human mothers to deny their children meager attentions, much less feed and love them with an untreated leg fracture.  What about a person whose pride risks lives?  And a person who files for food stamps and then gets an eyebrow piercing the following weekend?  And don't get me started on liars - their manipulations know no end.  I would love to take these people and shake them awake - "Are you pleased with the person you've become?!  How will the universe reflect your actions?!"

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the choices I make.  I'm certainly not perfect and I struggle with my own choices daily.  It would be so much easier to make selfish choices.  To go with the flow and just turn my eyes from injustice.  To do things half-assed because the effort of doing things to the best of my ability would take away from me and my own comfort.  To refuse to admit when I was wrong, and hide behind lies.  To gossip and  make my words hurt when I lack the courage to confront.

But if I did these things I would become ugly.  I couldn't look at purity and feel joy, because of my own ugliness.  I never want to feel that way.  I never want to look at my child's eyes and feel ashamed.  I never want to look into my dogs' clear eyes and be denied the same clarity reflected back.  I never want to look at Matty and feel unworthy of his love.  I want to be the wise, old crone, reflecting back on my life with the peace of knowing I've left a loving, compassionate and honest footprint.  For all of these reasons and so many more, character does matter.  It's what defines us and becomes our legacy.

I will not compromise.


Sunday, January 2, 2011


To start the new year off on the right foot, I've made good on one of my decisions.  I've opened my own Etsy shop!  There aren't many items listed, and I'm starting off small with handmade jewelry.  There will be other creative endeavors listed in the shop's future, but for now, just hanging a "shingle" on a storefront is a start.  Please stop by and tell your friends - I'd love to let my creative side become my bread-winning side, too!.  There's just something about earning cash for doggie biscuits while being my own boss that sounds right for 2011.  Thanks for having a look.  If you do.  Which I hope you will...

The Arwen's Pack Etsy Shop


As the new year unfolds, I'm hoping to have the strength and good judgment to make good choices.  There's a great deal to decide each and every day and each decision is like a "choose your own adventure" book in the game of life. Some choices aren't as earth-shattering of course, as others.

"Should I do laundry today?"
"Gingerbread latte or White Mocha?"  (On a very sad side note, the Gingerbread Latte came and went and I never had a chance to try it.  The poor guy at Starbuck's had to talk me through that one...)
"Sleep in or blog?"
Again, not monumental decisions.  But really, even these can impact your daily routine.  If you don't do the laundry, you'll either be smelly, or you'll wear shorts and that last pair of black socks to the grocery store.  Ok, the coffee decision is bad either way - both for the extravagance and the waistline.  And finally, while sleeping in is nice, maybe I'll feel overtired sleeping in and keep my ramblings trapped and jumbled in my head.  On the other hand, maybe if you've read this far, you're wishing I had left them right where they were.  

But then there are the really big, "gotta get 'em right" choices:
"Switch jobs or stay where I am?" 
"Start an online business, or not?"
"Finally pursue that writing thing, or stay complacent out of fear?"
Monumental decisions.  Clearly, making choices in any of these will shape the future far more than whether laundry gets done.

The seed for this blog took root a few nights ago, just before the New Year, as Arwen and I were out for the last walk of the evening.  Last chance for poopies.  Out of nowhere, we were visited by a Grey Ghost.  No, not a Dickensian A Christmas Carol type ghost, but a beautiful male Weimeraner wearing clinking dog tags.  Arwen would have none of him, true to her nature, but I tried to speak softly to him and let him know he could approach.  He trotted off, not nearly as interested in me as he was in Arwen (she is a beauty, after all), while I ran with her towards home.  I crated Arwen, and grabbed my phone and some treats.  I thought for sure that if I could track this boy down, I could read his tags and call his owners.  Surely he had escaped from somewhere.  Maybe his family was out looking for him right now, or maybe they were oblivious to his escape!

I searched the neighborhood, but to no avail.  Matty had even come out to look, and said this pup had come past him twice, sniffed from afar and kept going.  Not nearly close enough to read tags.  It was after midnight and I gave the area one last walk around with no luck.  All I could hear were the leaves blowing in the unusually warm breeze.  Not even a coyote song from across the canal.  I worried for quite awhile over this boy.  I hoped that if my dogs were ever lost or had escaped that someone would take the trouble to help them find their way home to us.  

I pictured the moment that this dog made the decision to leave.  Maybe a gate was left open, or the wind had blown open a front door, barely latched.  I saw through this boy's eyes the possibility if freedom.  And he took it!  He probably burst through that door or gate and trotted into "the wild" where he was rewarded with the freedom to sniff anything he wanted, to follow irresistible scent trails and pee on any old thing he chose to mark.  This would feel magnificent for a short while.  Then he might feel a bit tired of running, and look around to see that he was in unfamiliar territory and was feeling a bit thirsty.  Maybe even the twisting tug of hunger pains.  Would that moment that he'd decided to run out be regretted?  Or was the experience too precious to waste?  

I haven't seen this Grey Ghost again, but he haunts me nonetheless.  On my walks with the girls since that night, I've seen his muddy paw prints.  They're in places where a dog on a leash probably wouldn't have roamed and they are Weimeraner paw prints, I'm certain.  I wish I had been able to get him home that night, or I could've taken him to the clinic where I work.  I can only hope he made it home safely and is with his family away from danger.  But I do feel that seeing him was a good omen.  I imagine he wasn't afraid to make that leap of faith, as uncertain as it must've been.  An omen to welcome change, not fear it.  I hope I'll have his courage this new year to choose what might be uncertain and  possibly scary.  I hope more than anything, that I make choices that place me on good paths, and that my "choose your own adventure" story has a happy story line. 
Happy New Year and I wish you all good choices!!