Operation Duck Lift

Once upon a time there was a duck stuck in my pit.

Once upon a time there was a duck stuck in my pit. Wait. That sounds weird. I better back up and give you a bit of supporting information.

I am a bridgetender. I operate a bascule bridge much like the one in the diagram below. Most people don’t get to see what happens below street level to allow a bridge to rise, but with a typical bascule, if the bridge is going up, the counterweight is going down. Each leaf of a bascule is kind of like a fulcrum, or a see saw. In the most common design, that counterweight is dropping below street level during an opening, and it has to go somewhere. That means that there are giant pits for the enormous weights to drop into. Check out my blog post entitled The Heart of My Drawbridge to see some cool video I took of the inner workings of my bridge during an opening. It may clarify things or it may just confuse you even further.

So let’s get back to the duck in my pit, shall we?

Day One:

I arrived to work at 3 pm, and instead of the typical shift change conversation (“We had 3 openings. Everything worked. See ya tomorrow.”), the offgoing bridgetender informed me that he had been doing maintenance down below, and he spotted a duck in the pit.

This intel made me blink. In the 20 plus years I’ve been doing this job, the only creatures I’ve ever seen in the pit are the ubiquitous pigeons and the occasional rat. The pit is not a place anyone would want to hang out in. It’s cold. It’s damp. It’s about 30 feet deep. There’s water filling the bottom, and that water is disgusting and full of debris that has fallen from the roadway over the decades. Calling the pit the bowels of the bridge is no exaggeration.

I’m happy to report that I have managed to stay out of the pit my whole career. I walk on the catwalk that is suspended above it all the time as I move from one piece of machinery to the next, doing my part to ensure that the bridge remains in working order. I rarely give the pit more than a cursory glance, and when I do, I think, “Ewwww.”

On this day, my coworker informed me that he was hoping that the duck would fly away on its own, since the top of it (the pit, not the duck) is wide open to the outdoors, but he (my coworker, not the duck) hadn’t checked in a few hours. He asked that I check when I did my maintenance, because if the duck was still down there, he was most likely stuck.

So I went down, and I spent at least 15 minutes circling the pit, looking down at it from above. I looked high and low. I gazed at the fetid pool. I stared at the concrete slab beside the pool, which is caked with pigeon poop and garbage. No duck, living or dead.

I was very relieved. I went up to my tower and sent out an e-mail that assured my supervisor that, at present, we appeared to be duck-less. She was relieved, too. We are both animal lovers.

At the end of my shift, I went home with a song in my heart and a silly story to tell Dear Husband. After that, I went swiftly to sleep and did not give the duck any further thought.

That night, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees, and it probably got even colder in that damp, exposed concrete pit.

Day Two:

I arrived to work at 3pm, only to be informed that the duck was still in the pit. That surprised me, because I had really spent a lot of time looking for it the day before, to no avail. My coworker showed me a photo. Looking down at the pit from above, the duck appeared to be almost solid black. (We later learned that he was a male Merganser duck.) He was huddled in a dark corner. He would sometimes sit in the nasty, dark water, or he’d climb up onto the concrete slab that is beside it, and would huddle amongst the debris. This was one stealthy duck.

And he was getting weaker. Mergansers live mostly on live fish, and there were no fish in that pit. He was too weak to fly the 30 feet out on his own. I was amazed he survived the cold of the night. I felt horrible just thinking of him struggling to survive while I was nestled all warm and safe in my bed.

My coworker hadn’t written an incident report, which would have helped me immensely. Instead, I took disjointed notes about all the prep work he had done so far. This was to be an interesting shift.

First, he had contacted the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and was informed that they would be happy to come rescue our duck, but they only had two field officers for the entire area, and both were currently occupied. A message would be left for them, but the office manager suggested that if we want a more rapid response, we should contact the Seattle Harbor Patrol. I can’t say enough good things about those guys. They’re up for anything, and they’re used to getting strange calls, especially from us. They said they’d come out and give it a try, but at shift change they had yet to arrive. Meanwhile my coworker tracked down two organizations that care for sick or injured wildlife, but we would have to deliver the duck to them once we had finally captured it.

Later, I discovered that one of these organizations had had its permit to work with wild animals revoked by Fish and Wildlife, and was still engaged in a year’s long lawsuit with them. We couldn’t legally work with them. We also couldn’t send a random employee down into the pit to try to retrieve the duck. We are not authorized to rescue wildlife. Fortunately the Harbor Patrol is.

While waiting for them to arrive, I talked to PAWS, an organization in the Seattle area that is currently permitted to care for wildlife. They would be happy to take on our errant duck. Unfortunately, they close at 5:30 pm, and that time was fast approaching. I asked what to do. I was told that if we caught the little bugger after hours, we should put him in a warm room, in box with a towel, and give him no food or drink, and then deliver him to PAWS in the morning. (Apparently these ducks can go a few days without eating, but the idea of doing that to him really tortured me.)

Another slight problem: no one works graveyard shift on this bridge, so it’s not like I could leave him alone in the office, to waddle around and poop up my tower. It looked like I’d be bringing home a visitor. I did not look forward to fowl-sitting all night. I anticipated little or no sleep. But I have to admit that I was also a little intrigued. I have never spent that much quality time with a duck. I strongly suspected that my horizons would be broadened.

At about 3:10 I got a phone call from Harbor Patrol. They were on their way. Huzzah! I said I’d meet them at water level, and I ran down the 4 flights of stairs it takes to do so. A few minutes later, they called to say that they had been called to the scene of a sinking vessel. Naturally they had to deal with that first, but they’d be by later.

Back up the stairs I went, glancing nervously at the lethargic bird as I passed. Fortunately, Harbor Patrol was back in less than an hour, so I ran back down the stairs. They docked their boat and climbed onto the bridge pier. From there, I had to lower a dusty metal ladder down to them so they could climb up to the ledge where I was standing. This ledge was covered in a half inch of pigeon poop. I had never had any reason to stand there before. I was not living my best life.

From there, the two officers had to climb down the metal ladder rungs that are embedded in the pit wall, in order to stand on a concrete slab that is right next to the watery portion of the pit where the duck was hanging out. They brought a couple of ropes, a long heavy pole with a net at the end, and a cardboard box. I remained on that ledge, which was about halfway down the pit, but every bit as disgusting as the pit itself. I was using my pandemic mask to avoid breathing in the bird poop as best I could, even though, by this time, I was kneeling in it so that I could hand equipment down to the officers.

For the next hour and a half, the two officers tried to catch that bird, but he was having none of it. The net was too short to reach all the way to the back wall of the sludge-filled pond, and of course, there was no way either of them was going to enter the water. Who could blame them? There’s a lot of jagged debris in there, and next to no visibility. And the temperature had barely gotten into the upper 30’s.

They would throw a rope near the bird in hopes of scaring him into moving within reach, and the little devil would either paddle or flutter over to the other side of the room. Sometimes he dove beneath the water, only to pop up in another spot a minute later.

I was frankly surprised that the officers hadn’t given up after 45 minutes. I was really dreading the concept of going home, knowing that duck was still down in the pit, probably freezing and starving to death. I suspect they felt the same way, which is why they pressed on.

At one point, I had an idea. I climbed back up through the greasy, dusty, poopy girders to the catwalk that extends over the pit, and I lowered the big heavy orange life ring all the way down to the water, and swung and splashed it in the hopes of scaring our feathered friend away from the back wall and toward the officers.

No such luck. The duck was stuck. Oh, f***.

(Aren’t you glad nothing rhymes with merganser?)

We were starting to lose the light. Finally, we all looked at one another and had to admit that we would have to give up. Nature was going to take its course. My heart sank, but I understood. The duck was not in the mood to cooperate, and he definitely wasn’t listening to reason.

I watched from the poopy ledge as one of the officers climbed the ladder, bringing most of the equipment with him. I attempted to help, but I suspect I was only underfoot. The ledge was only so large. But that little delay turned out to be beneficial, because Officer Myers, the one still in the pit, shouted up to us that the duck was gone.

Wait. What?

After all that, the duck finally figured out that while he was too weak to fly, he could swim under the concrete platform, weave through all the debris, and find his way out to the canal. He had been diving for an hour and a half to avoid the net, and had never once gone that direction. Hopefully Mr. Duck has enough strength left to eat, gather energy, and thrive back in the wild.

We waited for an additional 10 minutes to make sure he didn’t come back into the pit, but he did not return. He had well and truly flown the coop. If he ever comes back in, I will probably leave him be, because obviously he knows how to find his way out now.

Next, I had to haul my weary self back up the stairs and write the incident report that should have been done by my coworker. But you know, I do love to tell a good story.

At the end of the shift, I went home covered in sweat, pigeon poop, and grease. You could say that I was pooped (Sorry. Had to.), but I was also choosing to feel triumphant. Just another day at the office.

Needless to say, I peeled off my nasty clothes and left them in a pile in our frigid garage, and then hopped right into the shower. It’s always nice to climb into a clean, dry, warm bed after a nasty day. I think I fell asleep before my CPAP even started to shoot air at my eyelashes like the coquettish wind tunnel that it tends to be.

That night I dreamed there was a Basset Hound lying on the girder high above the pit, with his ears hanging down toward the revolting water. I looked at him and thought, “Oh, great. How am I going to deal with this one?”

Then I woke up.

All that, and I wrote a book, too! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

January 24th: Change a Pet’s Life Day

Every pet I’ve had has changed my life. One of my dogs sports a collar that says “Who rescued who?” When I manage to get past my overwhelming desire to instruct the manufacturers of said collar on the proper use of “whom,” I can then focus on the fact that that’s a very good question, indeed. My pets mean the world to me. It’s only fair that there’s one day a year that helps to bring awareness to the fact that we can change our pet’s lives, too. And you don’t need to restrict your actions to just this day.

Naturally, the best way to change an animal’s life is to rescue or foster one. Because so many people don’t spay or neuter their pets, we have created a stray animal problem that’s overwhelming. Those poor dogs and cats that are left out on the streets suffer an existence that is miserable, violent and short. We can prevent that, one pet at a time. And please consider adopting older pets. They need love, too.

You can also volunteer at a pet shelter, or donate food or money to one. Shelters are even thrilled to get your extra towels. (Don’t we all have too many towels?) They go through a lot of those. If you can’t give them your time, they also appreciate toys.

If you know of a pet that’s being abused, report it to the local authorities. That’s a fantastic way to make a difference. Every pet deserves to have room to move, access to water and decent food, and shelter from the heat or cold. Also, get your pets examined by a vet on a periodic basis. They can often identify health issues and head them off at the pass before they become chronic.

Feed your pet healthy food, not that Walmart Ol’ Roy stuff, or anything similar that. There’s no nutritional value in that product. You don’t have to buy the high end, hard to obtain, super expensive stuff, but read the labels and compare ingredients. Also, keep people food to a minimum. Most pets only get fat because their owners don’t give them proper portions or the right kind of food. Overfeeding is abuse, even if you mean well.

Make your pet’s life a little less boring. Get your cat a new toy. Give your dog more attention. Take him on a walk to somewhere he has never been. The animals under your care deserve quality of life just as much as you do.

If you have rescued pets, tell their stories far and wide. Here are mine.

My dachshund, Quagmire, was found roaming the streets of Olympia, starving and terrified. He was also not neutered, and showing obvious signs of neglect. The notches in his ears, shown below, are evidence of a poor diet with not enough fish oil or water. That caused the edges of his ears to dry out and crack off. We suspect he was in a puppy mill, outlived his usefulness, and was dumped on the street like so much garbage. Now he’s my best friend and biggest supporter. He can get really worked up around strangers, and he hates it when people make big gestures with their hands. Only he knows what he’s been through. But for the most part, he sticks to us like glue and is the best cuddler on the planet.

We call our other dog Nelly for good reason. She is very nervous. She was horribly abused. It took a long time to gain her trust, and we still work to earn it every day. She is scared of loud noises and sudden movements. She often goes to another room to sleep by herself, and will leave if you enter. But when she is in the mood to be loved on, she soaks it up like a thirsty traveler who has found an oasis in the desert. She is by far the sweetest dog I have ever known. I wish she could be convinced that it’s okay to play with toys. We let her do her thing and define her own comfort zone. When she invites me into that zone, I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Sharing your rescue stories often encourages others to do the same. Also, let people know that mixed breeds can often be healthier because they don’t have the issues that come with inbreeding, and they are just as loving as purebreds. Educate friends and family about the horrors of puppy mills. That cute purebred that you purchased from Romania could very well have been the product of a very abused mother who has spent her entire existence in a small cage, up to her chest in feces. And the long travel to get to your country was probably extremely traumatic for the puppy. Please adopt from a local shelter, folks. There are plenty of dogs to go around.

So today’s the day to remind yourself (as if you need to be reminded) that it’s important to give your pet all the love you have to give, and then some. My babies, pictured below, say “Woof!”

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An Amazing Bit of Reconstruction

A bird with a new beak!

I came across this little article with the cumbersome title, “Parrot With Damaged Beak Gets Second Chance at Life With New Prosthetic Beak” and I was instantly intrigued. Not only do I have a friend who has a parrot (Hi, Feathery A!), but I also went to dental laboratory technology school at one point, so I’m very interested in appliances that help fix your teeth (or beak, in this case).

I will warn you that some of the “before” pictures in this article are a bit upsetting. The only reason I could stand to look at them is that I knew there was a happy ending. This bird was found in terrible shape. Not only does an all-but-nonexistent beak mean it can’t eat, but it also can’t climb or protect itself. Without intervention, it wouldn’t have lasted long.

Having created dental appliances in a lab myself, I know that this reconstruction was even more complicated than it looks. If the shaping had been even one millimeter off, the bird would have been in constant pain. Just imagine if you had to go through life with your jaw slightly crooked, and you’ll see how uncomfortable it would have been for the parrot. And since parrots use beaks like we use hands, to interact with the world, it would have been like a jaw ache compounded with carpal tunnel syndrome at the same time. Yikes.

But from the looks of it, they did an excellent job, and the bird looks very happy. It seems to have made a full recovery. I’m so happy to know that there are organizations in this world that are willing to go out of their way to help animals in distress. Well done, Renascer ACN!

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Wolf Connection

I see so many positives coming out of this organization.

Once again, by listening to NPR on my commute to work, I’ve learned something that has broadened my horizons. This time it’s about an organization with a unique way of helping at-risk youth. It’s called Wolf Connection. (You can hear the inspiring 4 1/2 minute story here.)

This organization serves a variety of amazing purposes. First, it is a wolfdog sanctuary. Many people think having a wolf/dog mix will make for an exotic pet, but soon learn that they can’t really handle the responsibilities thereof. Often these animals get abused or neglected or put to sleep, as most shelters will not put them up for adoption. Fortunately, in cases like this, Wolf Connection can sometimes step in and give them a forever home where they work with handlers who understand their unique qualities and special needs.

This group also does presentations for schools and organizations. Using wolves as a focal point is an exciting way to teach students about the environment, human history and evolution, teamwork and ethics. Wolves are, after all, the first creatures that we humans made a long-term connection with.

But for me, their most exciting mission is their Wolf Therapy program. This eight week program for troubled teens who have been abused, or have been in and out of foster care, or were in gangs, is a really impactful way to reach kids who have rendered themselves unreachable out of pure survival.

First of all, they can relate to these animals, because they, too have been abused. And wolves don’t judge. Wolves can teach us much about teamwork and cooperation. They show us the value of being okay with who we are, just as we are. They teach us how and when to trust. Working with these animals can increase confidence and self-esteem and teach valuable vocational and life skills. The program also teaches you to be more introspective.

I love it when I see so many positives coming out of an organization. You can sponsor one of their wolves, too. By doing so, you’re also investing in the future of our youths. Win/win.

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What’s a Potcake?

I’m so glad you asked. I only just found out myself. A potcake is a mutt that can be found on several Caribbean islands around the Turks and Caicos, usually a combination of German Shepherd, Labrador, and various types of terrier. They are around 50-60 pounds, full grown, and come in all sorts of colors. Potcakes got their names because people used to feed them potcake, which is basically the scrapings of leftover peas and rice at the bottom of a cook pot. As a general rule, potcakes are very intelligent and good-natured dogs.

Dog lover that I am, I just found out about the best vacation ever. On the island of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos, there is an organization called Potcake Place K-9 Rescue. They let you help socialize their adoptable puppies by taking them out on the beach. I can’t think of anything more delightful than romping with a puppy on the white sands of the Caribbean.

And if, as I’m sure I would, you fall in love with your pup, you can adopt him or her. They already have the system worked out so that you have all the necessary paperwork and health certificates to fly them home with you. What a wonderful way to end a vacation!

Even if you choose not to adopt, you can help socialize the dogs. You can also act as a courier for someone who is adopting a dog but can’t fly out to pick him up. And, of course, you can donate money or dog-related items to the organization.

I love the idea of an island where dogs play on the beach and find forever homes. I hope I get to go there some day.

Potcakes
Three little potcakes, no doubt gossiping about the tourists.

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Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

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On Being Someone’s Person

My dog Quagmire is hysterically clingy. That’s partly due to his breeding—Dachshunds can be that way. But it’s also partly due to all that he’s been through in his life. He was found dirty and starving and wandering the streets. He spent a lot of time in dog rescue facilities, which, despite their best intentions, probably felt a lot like puppy prison to him. It’s got to be traumatic to be jailed when you’re innocent.

And then I adopted him. I became his person. Now, when I’m home, he sticks to me like glue. If I’m sitting, he’s on my lap or nestled under my arm pit. He even accompanies me to the bathroom. He sleeps curled beside me. If I roll over, he repositions himself for maximum body contact.

Mostly I love it. Sometimes it drives me nuts. It’s like I suddenly gained 18 pounds of furry fat.

But when you adopt a pet, you make a commitment. You are responsible for the health and safety of another living thing. You don’t get to take a day off. It’s like being a parent. If you cannot provide a child with constant love and security, then maybe you should not take on this lifelong task.

Once you tell someone or something that you will provide a forever home, you need to keep that promise. Ideally, you will do so happily. It’s okay to have your moments. We all do. But don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. The damage you cause will ripple outward.

And it will also say something extremely ugly about you.

i-will-love-forever

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An Evacuation Rant

As I write this, Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Florida. After living there for 40 years, I still have a lot of friends in that state, so I’m very worried. The only good thing about hurricanes is that they generally give you a few days’ notice, so if you have to leave, in most cases you can.

But as per usual, I’m hearing a lot of stories about people who are ignoring evacuation orders and riding out the storm. This attitude never ceases to infuriate me. Do you think that by sticking around you can somehow protect your property from a wall of wind and water? Do you think that’s the top priority of the people who love you? Selfish. Selfish. Houses can be replaced. You can’t.

It’s one thing if you can’t physically or financially leave. Some people are trapped by circumstances, and I can think of nothing more terrifying. But what really enrages me are those people who voluntarily ride it out, and then have to be rescued in the aftermath. If your stupid ass is sitting on what’s left of your roof based on your poor choices, it takes time and money to row out to get you. Time that could be better spent elsewhere. Helicopters aren’t cheap, either, nor is medical care. That’s money that your now devastated city can ill afford. And you are putting your rescuers at risk as well.

Here’s something I’ve never understood. We, the taxpayers, are left holding the financial bag when these people need to be rescued and/or buried. Why aren’t they (or their estate) presented with a bill? If you’re under a mandatory evacuation order and you ignore it, that should be your burden to bear.

End of rant. Please stay safe, everybody.

matthew

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Traveling with Quagmire

Way back in March (my, how time flies) I adopted a little black Dachshund and named him Quagmire. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with him ever since. To say that this dog has issues would be putting it mildly.

First of all, I had no idea how stubborn Dachshunds are as a breed. But then add on top of it that this particular dog was abandoned to wander the streets of Olympia, where he was found dirty and half starved, and then, from his perspective, he was put into puppy prison for God knows how long before I came to his rescue.

What you get is a headstrong dog who finds it nearly impossible to trust, and even less possible to relax. He is extremely territorial. If someone even walks down the street in front of the house, he barks incessantly. And for such a little dog, he has a big, deep, “I’m really a Rottweiler” kind of bark, which is impossible to ignore.

He once busted through the screen door and nipped a cop on the ankle. Well, actually he gummed him on the ankle. He has no front teeth. When I adopted him I discovered they were all cracked and had to be removed. Still, I’m amazed he survived that one.

He also barks and lunges at what few visitors I have. This does not make for a warm welcome.(As if I didn’t already have a hard enough time finding a boyfriend.)

When I come home, even after a short absence, he’s hysterical with joy. He’ll throw himself into my arms, wrap his paws around my neck and press his forehead firmly against my lips, all while crying. He sticks to me like glue. He has to come into the bathroom while I shower or he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He spoons with me in bed. When I’m lying there working on my laptop, he sort of perches on my shoulder and the pillows, presses his ear against my cheek and watches the screen intently.

Quagmire is the neediest creature on the face of the earth.

When it’s just the two of us, I don’t really mind. He’s a love sponge. And since there’s really no way to explain to him that he’s safe, he’s home, and he’ll never be abandoned again, I just do my best to reassure him. I know what it’s like to have been through a lot. I know what it’s like to have been let down. I know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be loved.

I just could do with a little less barking. And I wish he wasn’t such a bully to my other dog, Devo, who is sweet beyond words and wants nothing more than to be Quagmire’s friend. And I’ll probably never travel with him again.

I took them both with me recently, for a vacation on the Oregon coast. It was a 6 ½ hour drive. For the first 3 ½ hours, Quagmire sat in the back seat and whistle/cried. The first hour I tried ignoring him in hopes that he would settle down and fall asleep, which is what Devo always does. That didn’t work. Then I tried shouting “No!” That only encouraged him. I tried singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall in hopes of drowning him out, but by about bottle 63, I realized that it was a futile endeavor. I was beginning to see why someone abandoned his annoying little ass. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

After our second dog walk break he finally, finally went to sleep, and a very relieved Devo followed suit. I had tried to sightsee along the way, but Quagmire would bark and lunge at the other sightseers, so I gave up and just continued to our destination. I missed a lot of interesting things because of him.

After venting my frustrations to a friend, she said, “You know, you could always give him back.”

But he’s not a flaming bag of poo. I can’t just drop him on the front steps of animal control and run. I made a commitment to this dog. This is his forever home. I just wish he understood that.

At the end of our vacation, I left them in the room while I packed the car, and this freaked Quagmire out. He must have thought he would be abandoned all over again. So on the last trip from the room to the car, he bolted past me and ran down the stairs.

I dropped everything and chased after him, shouting, “Quagmire! Quagmire!” but he kept running. Now I was the one to be scared. Too scared to think how strange it must have looked to see some frazzled woman running down the street screaming quagmire for no visible reason. (That’s not something I had considered when I named him.)

I didn’t want him to be hurt. He charged around the corner and toward the street. I was sure I’d lost him. Then I rounded the corner and there he was, scratching at the car door, as if to say, “Take me with you.”

We stared at each other for a minute, and then I scooped him up in my arms and said, “I’m never going to leave you. I promise.”

But that didn’t stop the little shit from crying for another 3 ½ hours on the way home.

img_1684

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Coming to the Rescue

I just had a long talk with my newest dog, Quagmire. Don’t panic. I’m not Son of Sam. I’m willing to acknowledge that the conversation was rather one-sided. But just by being the dog that he is, he was able to tell me quite a bit.

Before I adopted him, he was found dirty, terrified, and on the street. That’s no place for a little Dachshund. He had no microchip or collar, and although the rescue organization kept him for quite some time before putting him up for adoption, no one came for him. That astounds me, because in the short time I’ve had him in my life, I know that this dog is the pure embodiment of love. How could anyone not move heaven and earth to find him?

I will never know his whole story, but it’s clear that he’s been through a lot. I’m beginning to suspect there are health issues that we’ll have to contend with. And he’s the clingiest dog I’ve ever known. He has to sit in the bathroom when I take a shower, or else he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He sticks to me like glue. When I come home from work, he’s practically hysterical with joy. He likes to bury his little head in that space between my shoulder and my ear, deep under my hair.

I will always take good care of Quagmire. I’ll keep him as healthy as I can, and I will always make sure that he feels safe and loved. My life may not be perfect, but I’m going to make his as perfect as it can possibly be.

That’s one of the many joys of rescuing a pet—exercising the ability to give something the perfection that it deserves. Excellence often eludes us. As my mother loved to remind me, life isn’t fair. But when you take on a pet you have the power to give them heaven on earth. You are creating your pet’s entire world, and you can and should make it wonderful. That’s a heady feeling, and there’s no greater gift. For both of you.

Quagmire
“Get off the computer, mama, and give me some love.”