Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stormy Days

It has been a hectic week. We have had a really sick horse at the clinic and while logistically he takes a lot of time for care he also is an mental drain because it is just too easy to become emotionally involved with the horses that we care for. On top of everything else, on Thursday night (actually Friday morning at about 4 am) I slammed a heavy steel stall door on my right index finger and broke it.
Now I am a pretty brave girl. I've broken a few things over the years and generally I take injury right in stride. When you grow up around horses it is just expected that you will go through life with more than your share of your bumps and bruises. And let me tell you, the horse world takes no prisoners when it comes to anything other than life threatening injuries. You are expected to put your big girl shoes on and just live with it.
But let me tell you....this really hurts! I tried wearing a splint, but I just caught it on everything and made it worse, so I am now just going with a really big wrap around the entire thing. but it is a great excuse to just lay around today and not do very much. I worked last night and it is surprising how much you use your index finger for in everyday tasks. But such is life, Couldn't swim for the past couple of days which I miss......but because of that (in part) we had a stormy day yesterday.
You see, I used to be heavily involved in dog rescue (horse rescue too....but that is a story for another day). When I lived in Oregon I fostered for several groups and it was soon pretty well known that if you sent me an unadoptable dog I would probably just keep it rather than send it back to an unfortunate end for the dog.
At one point we had well over 20 dogs at our house. And while this is not an extremely high number for many rescues, it was overwhelming for me. I just could not relegate a dog to living in a kennel, so all of our dogs lived with us like a regular family pet. Many of the dogs went with me to demos and performances at different events and some were rather successful in agility and freestyle. But it was just too much for me, and in the past several years I have backed way off of getting involved too much.
I have thought a lot about what drives some of us to rescue large numbers of animals. There are obviously many degrees of this need. A few weeks ago a television show was shown that focused on animal hoarding. I was interested in seeing what a professional therapists take was on the causes, but what was disappointing was that they focused on two very extreme cases. One was a person with about 80 cats and another had about 50 dogs. And neither party allowed the animals outside for any reason. So there was a lot more going on in both cases than just having the need to rescue.
So being a complete amateur when it comes to the psychiatric world, I have some theories of my own. In my own case, I never really felt accepted or comfortable out there in the people world. Both with my own family and with friends and/or colleagues I have always felt out of place and searching for a feeling of belonging. And yet when I am with animals I feel loved, accepted and needed. So is that why we do it? It seems a bit too pat for an answer. I think that for me it goes even deeper. I never really started until after Kaity was born. And I believe that I went a little crazy when I knew what I was in store for raising a child with disabilities. The doctors actually warned me about this being a side effect of the situation. They wanted me to start therapy immediately to help me through the challenging times. But I chose instead to do it my way. And that turned out to not necessarily be the most healthy of choices.
I responded to the feeling of lack of control over my life in three primary ways. First of all, I ate. And I ate a lot. You see, I could not do drugs, or turn to alcohol because I needed to be able to take care of Kaity. So I could not allow myself to be impaired. But when it came to food I could have that instant gratification that also gave myself a reward. It did not matter if anyone else gave me an attaboy for how I was raising her alone- I would give myself a reward. And it was immediate and i could control the level of reward by what and how much I ate.
The second way that I could instantly give myself a pat on the back was by shopping. Clothes, art work, garage sales, furniture, you name it, I bought it. Now mind you I never put myself in debt with credit cards, but I spent every penny that I earned as soon as I cashed my paycheck. It gave (gives) me a feeling of great satisfaction to purchase something that I want. And if I were to be completely honest, I probably only needed about ten percent of the things that I bought. But I continued to do it, and although I have become slightly better about my choices I still struggle with this issue to this very day.
And finally, I rescued animals. It did not take much to get me to agree to save an animal's life by bringing them to our home. A part of the problem- however I do not want to blame anyone but myself for this situation- was that I had a number of friends that were doing the same thing and in some cases on a much higher level than I. So rather than feeling like the crazy old cat lady out in the woods, I was actually encouraged to continue by these friends. And we had a lot of really good times. We showed our dogs together at breed shows and in the agility ring. We traveled together, and spent time together on a regular basis. I had a training area out in front of my house and they would all come over (along with other dog friends) on Saturday nights and we would work dogs and then build a bonfire, and sit around talking and enjoying each other's company until the middle of the night each Saturday. I felt as though I belonged in their circle and that I had found friends who felt like family.
But then over the years people started moving away. There were a couple of divorces. And finally I also chose to move away from that environment and try to get a better handle on my life.
I have been better these past few years. We still have a huge number of dogs (although only about half of what we had before) but I no longer say yes without a great deal of thought into the consequences of saying yes and bringing a specific dog into our household. many of my dogs are quite elderly now, and so in the next few years we will probably lose most of them, and they are certainly past the point of needing any training or extra exercise. They just live with us and get love from now on.
But yesterday I said yes again. My first love in the dog world are the herding dogs. With my passion for training and competing I like to stack the deck my way when at all possible. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the people who compete with unusual breeds. I have a friend who does freestyle with Beagles and another with Greyhounds. There are gals using Newfoundlands and various terrier breeds. But I will admit that I probably do not have the temperament to choose any of these dogs as my competition dogs. So I stick to herding dogs. My first freestyle dog was a sheltie (still here and about to turn 14) and my TillyBelle is a little Aussie. Our puppy Flag is supposed to be an Aussie, and I believe that he probably has at least some of that breed in him...and whatever else might be there also leans towards herding characteristics.
The other night I got an email about an Aussie that was about to outstay his welcome at a shelter. he had been there awhile, he was estimated to be about 5-7 years old, thus getting himself the 'older dog' label that often turns people away and he had a tumor on his neck that would need to be surgically removed. So three strikes and he was about to be out.
A photo was sent to me along with his plea for help. And when I saw his face, I just knew that he was meant to be my dog. So the next morning found me sitting outside the shelter before they even opened for the day. When the doors were unlocked it took me about ten minutes to meet the dog (named Stormy by shelter workers) and fill out the adoption papers. By last night he had his surgery to remove the tumor and was trotting behind me at work as I went from stall to stall treating my cases.
He would have had his first training session today, but about halfway thru the morning I knew I had to take a pain pill for my (broken) finger and did not feel comfortable driving anywhere under the influence so I have spent the better part of today on the couch.
So three and a half weeks ago I made a great start at taking my life back under control. I went to a healthy eating lifestyle. I called my Auntie, and regained a family. I have not spent any money lately on unneeded purchases (I really DID need those silver conchos off of ebay to put on my sandals). And I saved Stormy's life.
Most people would say that I have been successful this past month at getting control over two out of three vices.
But I am looking at Stormy laying here on the living room floor. Every now and then he sighs with contentment. He went to sleep last night with a full tummy of food and a stitched incision where a large tumor used to be. And this week he will start training to be a freestyle dog.
And I am thinking that I am a winner on all counts.

Laura.....who will weigh in again on Wednesday....but knows that the healthy way I am eating is more important than the amount that shows on the scale this week.


  1. I have 7 dogs right now (in a city that only allows 3) but like you-several of those are old and need little but a cuddle. My plan is to let the population die down naturally until it is more manageable.

    I have always had to consider each new dog because I have a 3 pound dog who is a little twit-and I don't want to live in a situation where I am constantly worried about one animal's life.

    I feel I've made a healthy decision to let the numbers dwindle-but I don't see myself ever just having a single dog. I enjoy living with a pack.

    I also have a flight cage of parakeets that were rescued by WildCare a few years ago-someone dumped the baby birds in a box by the side of the road-in November. I've let them just be birds-and their cheeky nature makes me smile every day.

    Rescue is such a hard thing-if you get into a group there is often a lot of pressure to "take just one more" and I want to balance doing some good in the world with what is best for me and my own animals.

    I think the hoarding cases make for good TV-and I do worry about the animals. The extreme cases are nightmares for the people as well as the animals-many times cats coming from hoarding situations are not adoptable.

    I have 3 cats-Luna came from the pound and when it was clear she was lonely I adopted brother kitties a friend raised...the one I wanted and the one no one wanted. I wouldn't take for EITHER of the boys-they are both precious.

  2. Laura, your blogs are heartrending. Your writing gets right into my mind. I understand the healing process of writing, and I appreciate your allowing others to read what you have written. Thanks.

    Now...regarding Stormy. I certainly Understand how a "merle-y" face can weave its way into your heart....I have a liddle clown of my own--if you look closely, you can see the harlequin triangles drawn right under his eyes....Yeh, I'm totally Gone with this pup...Understand Completely.

    Keep living in the moment. The dogs'll show you how, and you will discover so much and regret very little. It's all a journey, anyway, and Look! You have Found the Path that you wanted all along! I, too, regret being fat during my "pretty years," but have come to realize that 60 can also be the pretty years---not to mention a liddle bit of chutzpah to go with it! :-)
    Keep swimming! Three pounds a week is WONDERFUL! Remembering all the time that, at this "slow" rate of loss, your skin will have a chance to tighten up, and you won't be wrinkled....

    MY weight loss was only TWO pounds a week! Seemed like it took FOREVER. You can DO this. And every pound is a Lesson....xoxoxo