30 March 2011

Sweet Georgia on my mind: The beginning

As I've mentioned before, we have a friend who seems to stumble onto pit bulls in need all of the time. We appreciate the good intentions and we certainly appreciate anyone who's advocating on behalf of pit bulls, particularly in such a hands-on way, so we try to be supportive.... And by "be supportive," we initially intended that to mean, "Yay you, friend! You did a great thing here for this dog! You saved it's life! Let us buy you a pint!"

It turns out that our support was required in a much more active manner. We were sitting in a restaurant one Saturday afternoon waiting for our lunch when Chris' phone rang: "Okay, you're where? You have the dog? We're in Andersonville.... Uh, okay sure. Call us when you get closer." Our well-intentioned friend lives in a decidedly non-pet building. Apparently we were her back-up plan...or possibly her Plan A. It's hard to know for sure.

Fast-forward 20 minutes. Our lunch was in our car in to-go boxes. Rescues-of-choice one and two had already responded that they were full-up. We were definitely in brainstorming mode, though not quite in panic mode. At least T2 were at sleepover camp for the night since we had a party to co-host that evening—that gave us one less pair of things to worry about.

Our friend pulled up and rushed around the car to open the door. I couldn't even see a dog from where I was standing four feet away. When Chris reached in to lift out the petite bag of bones that was curled up on the seat, I felt my heart break a little on her behalf. Sweet, sweet girl with no meat on her, no understanding of what was going on, no idea whether we were good people or bad people—and still her little tail gave the teeniest hopeful beat and her tongue flicked out in the most hesitant way toward Chris' chin to show that she came in friendship. 

And then the smell hit me. It's entirely possible that 50 percent of her body weight that day was the accumulation of every bit of dirt and stench that she had ever come across.

This photo is not from the day we took her home (though the woeful expression captures the moment we met her). She came to us as naked and tagless as the day she was born. Of course.

We got the back story: Someone had stopped our friend on the street because he had seen her walking a neighborhood pit bull. There was a dog in his building who had been kicked out of the apartment her "family" lived in and she was now living in the hallway. He had checked with the owners; they wanted nothing to do with her. Did our friend have any interest in taking the pit bull with her? Hell yes, she did! 

As she handed us the bag of dog treats she had picked up at a convenience store, she asked what our plan was. We were forced to admit that we would have to get back to her on that, but not to worry—we would figure something out. And then Smelly* and I snuggled up together in the backseat of the car, Chris got behind the wheel and off we went.

* Smelly was not the name we gave her, just for the record. But at this point, it was the only moniker that suited her.

17 March 2011

She's a barfer

I was going to write a little story around this photo entitled Monkey See, Monkey Do. 

"I know how to sit still, too!"

I would have told you about how popular Toni is at the vet, in part due to her good looks but in greater part due to her entirely chill attitude. She can hunker down on that cool tile floor like it's a feather bed, following the action around her just by moving eyes. Despite the poking, prodding and other intrusive behavior, she always appears to be just one blink away from falling fast asleep. Téa, of course and on the other hand, is a pacer, a squealer, a bouncer and a hopper (once all the way over the reception desk to take a look at our bill). She is essentially a vision of all things inappropriate when we're in the waiting room at the vet (though in the end she is a model patient). But today, for some reason, she decided it was time for a game of Monkey See, Monkey Do and was her most relaxed, most well-behaved, most non-dramatic self, which of course gave me hope that our future together will involve less drama on her part.

Instead, I can only shake my head, sigh and say that it's hard to tell from this photo that in mere moments, Téa would throw up much of her breakfast and all of the peanut butter she had just eaten...onto Toni's head. In typical Toni fashion, she just wagged her tail limply and gave us a doleful Eeyore look while she waited for us to wipe her down.

04 March 2011

Illinois readers: Call to action by 8 March

Thanks to Sirius Cooks in Oak Park (and Facebook) I made a quick and easy phone call this morning to state legislator Lisa Dugan (217-782-5981). My only message, which was presumably recorded along with my name and city by the person who answered the phone, was to request a no vote to House Bill 1080. This proposed change to Illinois law would remove the state-wide ban on breed specific legislation (BSL). 

Illinois is one of the most animal-friendly states in our nation. We do not support or allow BSL. We allow for a felony classification for animal abuse and do on occasion (not often enough, of course) hold people accountable to that degree. It has made me proud to call Illinois my home for the last 11 years and has given me (apparently a false) sense of security knowing that our dogs, at least, would be safe.

As a resident of Illinois; caretaker to two loving and lovable pit bulls; and a firm believer in addressing the cause of a problem not the result, I cannot let this vote be taken without having my voice heard. You must take one minute, 60 seconds, between now and Monday to do the same. Lisa Dugan (217-782-5981): "No to HB 1080."

For a more extensive, thoughtfully written article, refer to this one in the News-Gazette. (And good luck finding coverage elsewhere - I couldn't find a Tribune or Sun Times article on this topic anywhere online.)

02 March 2011

Free toy zone once again

Toni is not a sharer by nature. She's not really greedy nor is she particularly interested in whatever it is that attracts Téa's attention. Like many alpha dogs, she just believes it's her right and her job to maintain control of all things interesting or of value.

We do not particularly find this character trait endearing, as you can imagine. A toy management dispute is what led to Toni knocking out a tooth on Téa's head the first week Téa lived with us. This was the beginning of a long line of discussions over who's in charge of toy management. 

"I don't understand what the problem is. I gave her that bit of tennis ball that I was finished with. What more could she possibly want?"

We've learned to get Toni engaged in dismembering something (a squeaky toy, a rope-ball contraption, an Extreme Kong) before roughhousing with Téa. Even so, we have developed a sixth sense for Toni's inevitable attempt to squash all things fun. She lowers her head like a bull facing a matador and then barrels toward us in her own funny sideways run, picking up speed as she goes. We are ready to deflect her now, but it adds a little stress to play time if you're constantly on the lookout for the neighborhood bully.

"These are my puzzle balls. Mine. Mine. Mine. Even if I don't want them."

So for nearly two years, we have been a declared restricted toy zone. The toy bin has been closely managed - kept on a top shelf or behind a door. Toys were only available when someone had the time and attention span to stand alert, ready to break up potential scuffles over a squeaky penguin or a rope with tennis balls at either end or whatever the toy du jour happened to be. 

But frankly, that's just not fun for any of us.

So, after some serious observation and practice sharing, we are proud to announce that we are once again a free toy zone. This is not to be interpreted as "free toys for all who enter," but rather as a "toys roam freely on our premises" sort of categorization. As hoped, Toni is generally unconcerned about these free-roaming toys, leaving them to their business for the most part. As expected, Téa is ecstatic. 

"First I will nibble this pink one. Then I will fling the green thing onto my back again; and then I will give the brown and pink one a shake. Then I think I'll start again from the beginning."

At any moment, she is able to fling a furry frog, romp with a twisted rope or battle with a puzzle ball. Sometimes, we find, she attempts all three simultaneously.

"One...two..three...six...174! I had no idea we had so many toys!"