Crossing Paths with Futures Past

Have you ever run into someone you once thought you’d have a bright future with, but it didn’t work out? It’s a very disconcerting feeling. You are standing there in your present, getting a glimpse of a life you could have had. You’re peeking down a parallel timeline.

It’s a very bittersweet feeling. It reminds me of that scene in The Way We Were when Barbra Streisand runs into Robert Redford with his new love and says to him, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” That movie always makes me cry. Memories…

But such encounters can also be a stark reality check. On more than one occasion I’ve come away from them thinking, “Whew! I dodged that bullet!” Because it’s blatantly obvious that the person in question is not in a place where I’d want to be. Perhaps their health has deteriorated, or they’re now abusing a substance, or they’ve moved to a hellish location, or they’ve become inexplicably obsessed with collecting traffic cones. No thanks.

If you’ve been pining away for that person, absorbing this new reality into your worldview might take some time. But what a relief to no longer pine. Pining takes a lot of energy. (That, and the sap is hard to get out of your hair.)

I suggest that when confronted with loves past, you take that opportunity to assess, and hopefully appreciate, where you are now. Now is your reality, and hopefully it is your gift. Your life could have unfolded in a multitude of ways, but here you are.

Having done that, resist the urge to tell that person, “This happiness could have been yours, you big dummy.” It might be satisfying, but in the end, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Life has a funny way of going on. (And for all you know, he or she is thinking the same thing.)

Most of all, crossing paths with futures past should make you aware of how many options you have. You can’t control other people, of course, but you have a multitude of opportunities to write your story in the best possible way, even if it isn’t going the way you once predicted that it would.

Good luck, dear reader!

The Way We Were

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Ghost Fishing

Before I throw them away, I cut rubber bands, circles of string, soda can plastic, anything that turtles might get entangled in, because I have seen what can happen to the garbage of the world, and I can’t even imagine the pain that’s associated with it.

Deformed Sea Turtle

It’s so easy to overlook those things you don’t have to see. What I don’t see, and rarely think about, are the hundreds of miles of nets and lines that are lost at sea every year. Even without human participation, those nets continue to fish, decades, potentially centuries, after their loss. Especially now that they are made of nylon and plastics, which can last forever.

It’s called Ghost Fishing, and it’s a major threat to our oceans. Fish get caught in them. Then predators are attracted to the fish and also get caught, and on and on. It must be a horrible way to die. And it’s so senseless.

Fortunately, there are many clean up efforts going on around the world. But they’re fighting an uphill battle. They need volunteers to start their own local initiatives. They also need donations to increase awareness of the problem. Long net fisheries should be required to support these organizations, and they should use biodegradable nets. Unfortunately many do not.

If, like me, you understand the need to reduce the harmful impact we humans have had on our planet, please consider supporting Ghost Fishing.org in their worthy goal of cleaning up the world’s oceans, one net at a time. Thank you.

Ghost fishing

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“Lost Saint Bernard”

I saw this on some local social media recently. My first thought was, “How in the hell do you lose a Saint Bernard?” I mean, this is not a dog that can scoot past your ankles while you’re checking the mail. It’s not going to tip-toe past you while you’re binge watching Arrested Development. It’s not hunkered down beneath your shrubbery, hoping to be overlooked.

Losing a Saint Bernard would be akin to losing a baby elephant. Granted, I bet they can run really fast when properly motivated, but as long as you’re hot on their tail, it would be awfully hard for one to just disappear. I think it would take a concerted effort to lose a dog of this size.

Maybe it got stolen. But you’d have to be pretty stupid to steal a Saint Bernard. They can weigh anywhere from 140 to 260 pounds. Can you imagine how much a dog that size must eat? Taking on a Saint Bernard would be like adopting a full grown human being, but one who is prone to chewing the furniture and is a lot less discerning as to where he or she defecates.

But then, while I was busy scoffing at this turn of events, I vaguely remembered a family story. Apparently, when I was a toddler, we had a Saint Bernard. One of the rooms in our house was a step higher than the room below it, so when I’d scoot around in my walker, the dog would lie across the doorway, to keep me from falling. What a good dog.

I have no idea why we would have a dog that size when my single mother had a toddler and two other kids around age 10, but there you have it.

And, ironically, when I grew up and asked her what became of that dog, she said it heard some fire engine sirens and ran away. Hmm. That sounds a lot like one of those, “Spot is now living happily on a farm” type stories. Looking back as an adult, I bet she couldn’t handle it anymore, and got rid of it, or at the very least was kind of glad when it bolted. It wasn’t the first time she’d made up a story to avoid drama, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Because honestly, how do you lose a Saint Bernard?

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Finding a Lost Pet

Anyone who owns pets knows that they quickly become part of the family. The unconditional love that they provide is priceless. The companionship is irreplaceable.

So if one runs away or is otherwise lost, you will naturally be very upset. This happened to me recently, and I thought I’d lose my mind. Not only was I frantic and in tears, but I also quickly realized that I was totally unprepared for this contingency.

Fortunately, in this digital age you have quite a few options. And after my experience I realized that there’s a lot one can do in advance of a pet loss to prepare for it. (Fortunately my beloved dog was returned to me after 48 of the longest hours of my life.) So what follows is what I learned.

First and foremost, have your vet microchip your pet, and keep your contact information with them up to date. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but believe me, if you don’t do it, there may come a time when you desperately wish that you had. When shelters receive new animals, the first thing they do is scan them for microchips. If a responsible person finds your pet, they will most likely bring them to a shelter or a vet, and vets can scan for chips as well. You may think that the ID on your pet’s collar is sufficient, but my dog dug out under the backyard fence, and left his collar behind (the doofus).

Next, as soon as you discover that your pet is gone, walk the neighborhood. You may get lucky and Rover is just exploring the trash cans next door or sniffing another person’s pet through the screen door. If, like me, you have amazing friends and neighbors, recruit their help in this as well. Also, and I hate to say this, but if you live near any busy highways, you will need to look on the side of the road and in ditches as well.

If that doesn’t work, the next step is to spread the word in as many ways as you can. The best way is to post a notice on the Lost and Found section of Craig’s List for your area. That is ultimately how the man who found my dog was able to contact me. It’s often one of the first places people will look.

Next, post the information on your Facebook page so all your friends, especially the local ones, will know. It’s important that you make this post PUBLIC so they can share it with their local friends, and so on. You’d be amazed at how quickly the word spreads. (Six degrees of separation ROCKS!)

Also, search Facebook for groups related to your neighborhood. You’ll find that they mostly will allow you to make this post, even if it’s not exactly their subject matter. I got a lot of feedback from a local Buy/Sell/Trade page, and a Farmer’s Market page. There was even a Lost Dogs Facebook page for my county. Keep track of what Facebook pages you post on, because people will get emotionally invested in your story, and they’ll want an update if your pet is found.

Next, it is important to contact the area pet shelters. Many of these have entered the 21st century, and have ways for you to post reports and pictures on their website. They also may post pictures of found pets on their websites. Others have hotlines where you can hear descriptions of the animals they’ve taken in in the past few days. Don’t count on their descriptions being accurate, though, especially if you have a mixed breed. What they think of as a terrier mix may be your half beagle, half Chihuahua. You never know. It’s best to pay them a visit and have a look and touch base with them.

Remember that there may be more than one shelter in your area. I live on the border of two cities, so if my dog ran south, he’d wind up in one jurisdiction, and if he ran north, he could have been in any of three different facilities. The first shelter you contact will be well aware of others in the area and can give you a list. But think city and county Animal Control, neighboring cities, no-kill shelters, breed rescues, and Humane Societies

There are also all sorts of pet finder websites on line. You can register with any or all of them, but be aware that they’re often trying to get money out of you or spam you within an inch of your life, so choose carefully. Some sites will fax a flyer to all your area vets, often free of charge, which is very helpful. But if you have a good relationship with your vet’s office, contact them as well, because they’ll often do the same thing for you. Failing that, you can always google all veterinarians in your zip code and e-mail them a flyer yourself.

A note about flyers. It is important to include the following information:

  • Lost Dog (or cat or boa constrictor or whatever) in very large font so it can be seen from a distance.
  • The breed of your pet and its weight and coloring.
  • The gender, and in the case of males, whether it has been neutered.
  • Any unique and distinguishing features such as moles. (And note the location of those features NOW. In my agitated state, I couldn’t remember if my dog’s cyst was on his right or left side.)
  • Whether or not your pet was wearing a collar.
  • The date your pet went missing, to avoid getting calls about pets that were recovered before yours disappeared.
  • A recent picture of your pet. (Do you have a recent one? If not, take one now.)
  • Also, include your CELL phone number rather than a land line, because someone might call while you’re out searching.

These unique descriptions help to eliminate many calls about animals that look like yours but aren’t. There’s nothing more upsetting than getting those. Also keep one of your pet’s unique features to yourself, so that if you do get a call and the person says, “How do I know he belongs to you?” You can respond, for example, “He has a white Nike swoosh pattern on his left flank.”

Here’s my flyer for example:

Devo Flyer

Now, print out multiple copies of your flyer, stick each one in a plastic sheet protector to protect them from the rain and weather, and then, armed with a staple gun, post them on telephone poles all over your neighborhood. Also hand flyers to your postman, your local police officers, the fire department, and area churches. Does your grocery store have a community bulletin board? Post one there, too. (You may need to bring your own tacks.)

Here’s something I wish I had done: make a note of every place you’ve posted a flyer so if you do recover your pet, you can take them all back down again. No need having your personal info out there if it’s no longer necessary. Plus, it’s the responsible thing to do from an environmental/good citizen standpoint. It doesn’t do to piss off the neighbors. You might lose your pet again one day and need their help.

Once you have done all that, you’ll be reduced to canvassing the neighborhood, old-school style. Knocking on neighbors’ doors. For that, I suggest you produce a mini-flyer, three per page, that you can hand them so they have your contact information, like this one:

Devo Neighbor

It’s important to appeal to their emotional side. The worst case scenario (aside from the final, unspeakable one) is that your pet may have been stolen, or a kid brought it home and whined, “Ma, can we keep him? Pleeeeeeease?” and the selfish parent doesn’t have the heart to say no. If that’s the case, public pressure is your friend. Your neighbors will keep an eye out. Your internet friends will, too.

Now, if you’re an organized person and want to give a gift to your future, frazzled self, you might want to reread this again, and make a list of all the contacts mentioned above. Then compile the names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails and websites of the agencies in question for your area. Also keep all needed supplies in a central location (it’s a pain in the behind to have to go buy sheet protectors when you’re hysterical). Even start the bare bones of a flyer in advance and leave it on your computer.

Believe me, I wish I had done all of these things in advance. I also hope that if you have other ideas, you’ll post them in the comments below.

If you’ve lost your pet, I’m very sorry. All you can do is your very best, and hope, like me, that a kind, responsible person has taken him or her in and will contact you. Best of luck.

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Home sweet home and totally unrepentant.

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with GPS Girl

She lead me across the country and she helps me find my way around this new befuddling city of mine, so I’m really extremely dependent upon the voice that comes out of my GPS. I’m truly grateful for all she does for me. But there are also times when I want to slap her silly.

She has a cruel sense of humor. I think she knows I’m mildly dyslexic. She loves to say, “Turn left” when her map is clearly indicating that I need to turn right. I have learned the hard way that when that happens, you must ignore her voice and follow her arrows.

She has also led me to open fields and insisted there were roads where no roads have ever been. Once she led me to the edge of a cliff. GPS Girl is not to be entirely trusted. But she knows she’s all I have. I’m also weirdly connected to her because she was a gift from my late boyfriend.

Yesterday GPS Girl and I were deep into the hate portion of our love/hate relationship. I was trying to get to a building downtown where they were giving city employees free flu shots. Oh, she got me there all right. But how do you explain to her that the parking in downtown Seattle absolutely SUCKS? Getting me to the front door isn’t good enough. I then have to find a place to dump my car. That’s not her fault, technically speaking.

But as I drove around and around and around, hearing her smug tone as she said, “recalculating” was setting my teeth on edge. And then at one point I turned into a tunnel under a building, assuming it was a parking garage, and it turned out to be an on ramp for the interstate. Who builds a skyscraper over the top of an on ramp, for crying out loud? And since I was in a tunnel, GPS Girl went silent. She hates tunnels. I didn’t know where the hell I was until I was across the canal and miles away from my flu shot. When she woke up again, she tried sending me the wrong way down several one way streets, and up off ramps. I was beginning to think that she was seriously effing with me.

I had no choice but to ignore her instructions. She started to sound increasingly irritated. “Turn around when possible.” Why? So I could go back to the wrong way street? We were at an impasse. So GPS Girl pulled out the ultimate trump card; something I had never seen her do before. “There is no route to your destination.” In other words, you can’t get there from here. You’re on your own, Choochie.

So I did the only thing one can do when one has seriously pissed off one’s partner. I aimlessly drove around in circles, keeping quiet, until GPS Girl had a chance to calm down and reconsider her actions. Finally she told me how to get back downtown.

It was probably my imagination, but she sounded a little sheepish. Apology accepted. For now.

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